The consequences of the Republican-libertarian point of view

Texas is reeling from a severe winter storm that has resulted in huge swathes of the state being without power and caused 20 deaths so far.

Anger over Texas’s power grid failing in the face of a record winter freeze is mounting, as millions of residents remained shivering, with no assurances that their electricity and heat – out for 36 hours or longer in many homes – would return.

Between 2 and 3 million customers in Texas still had no power, nearly two full days after historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge in demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state’s power grid and causing widespread blackouts. Meanwhile, people’s water pipes are bursting and hours long lines have been wrapping around grocery stores as people search for food.

To add further insult, some people are getting outrageously high bills.

As first reported by Reuters, the market prices on the power grid spiked more than 10,000 percent on Monday in the aftermath of the deep freeze. Prices skyrocketed to more than $9,000 per megawatt-hour—compared to the pre-storm prices of less than $50 per hour.

That’s free market capitalism for you, reaping huge profits off the suffering of people.

The governor of the state, Republican Greg Abbott, went on Fox News and falsely claimed that the breakdown in supplies was due to the presence of renewable energy sources like wind and solar on the grid.

“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Greg Abbott, Texas’s Republican governor, told Fox News about an ambitious but not enacted plan to rapidly phase out fossil fuels. “It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states, to make sure that we’ll be able to heat our homes in the wintertime and cool our homes in the summertime.”

Abbott’s attack contradicts the operators of the Texas grid, which is overwhelmingly run on gas and oil, who have confirmed the plunging temperatures caused gas plants to seize up at the same time as a huge spike in demand for heating. Nevertheless, images of ice-covered wind turbines, taken in Sweden in 2014, were shared widely among conservatives on social media as proof of the frailty of clean energy.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congresswoman behind the Green New Deal platform, said that Abbott was “blaming policies he hasn’t even implemented for his own failures” while the renewable energy industry also hit back.

“It is disgraceful to see the longtime antagonists of clean power engaging in a politically opportunistic charade misleading Americans,” said Heather Zichal, chief executive of the American Clean Power lobby group.

So why couldn’t Texas get power from other parts of the country when some of the state sources shut down, the way other states deal with temporary shortfalls? Because Texas chose to keep its grid largely separate from the rest. Why? So that they could avoid regulation by the big, bad federal government.

[M]ost of Texas’ power supply is connected to a grid entirely within state lines. It is one of three power grids in the country: a western power grid, an eastern power grid and the Texas grid.

That means the connections Texas has to other grids is limited, which in turn limits the amount of power that can be transferred from other grids to Texas and vice versa.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages Texas’ grid, which is about 90% of the state’s electrical load. ERCOT explains in a short YouTube video that the Texas grid is independent from the country’s two other electrical grids that cover the eastern and western United States.

An EPA map shows that most of the Texas panhandle and parts of eastern Texas are a part of the Eastern Interconnect and the El Paso area is a part of the Western Interconnect. The rest of Texas is in what’s called the Texas Interconnect. The entire grid is contained within Texas.

About 2:10 into an ERCOT video about its history, ERCOT explained that Texas has an independent grid because of its response to the 1935 Federal Power Act. The law gave the federal government authority to regulate power companies that engaged in interstate commerce. So Texas power companies agreed not to sell power outside of Texas, which allowed them the ability to avoid federal regulation.

Meanwhile, the mayor of a small town in Texas has come out and openly said what many right-wingers say they believe, but only when the target is other people who are not like them.

A Texas mayor has resigned after telling residents of his city to “Get off your ass and take care of your own family!” in the face of a devastating once-in-a-generation winter storm that has killed more than 20 people across the country and left millions without power in the state.

Colorado City mayor Tom Boyd told the 4,000 or so of his fellow citizens in his town that he was “sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout” and blamed “a socialist government” for the dire situation.

“No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING!,” Boyd continued in the career-ending rant he posted on a local community Facebook group.

Instead he suggested that people look to inspiration from their churches. “Only the strong will survive and the weak will perish. Folks, God has given us the tools to support ourselves in times like this,” he said.

A socialist government? In Texas? With Republican leadership at all levels?

But we should be glad that he had he guts to say openly what mealy-mouthed Republicans and libertarians will only say in code.

Trevor Noah has something to say about the absurd efforts of Fox News and Abbott to blame Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal for the debacle in Texas.


  1. blf says

    In addition, in some parts of Texas, people have been told / ordered to boil their water. Without either the gas or electric power to do so. Partly as a result — plus the understandable desire to stay warm and cook — makeshift stoves, etc., are causing an increase in CO poisoning, on top of the also-largely-preventable Covid-19 and cold emergencies.

    There are — at the present time unconfirmed — rumors Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who claimed last year “California is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity” due to the wildfires, is vacationing in Mexico.

  2. mediagoras says

    Why is everyone in Texas in such a hurry? The people of Flint, MI, did without potable water for more than five years.

  3. says

    I seem to recall that the infrastructure in Texas is based on the premise that government and regulation don’t build reliable infrastructure.

    Republicans: “pull my finger.”

  4. consciousness razor says

    It’s been bad but less extreme in a bunch of other states too. From what I can tell, at least LA, AR, OK, KS, MO, TN, maybe some others. Much of the national news has been focused on TX and the jokers there, so it’s hard to get the full picture. In any case, a lot of places (depending on which energy company was granted a monopoly in that particular area) have experienced rolling blackouts or power outages, as well as price gouging on natural gas.

    Make all of it public infrastructure, in one nice big nationalized system. If a glibertarian doesn’t like it, then you know it’s a good idea that will help people (and not only shareholders, executives, and their ilk).

  5. Tethys says

    Texas has been controlled by oil interests for many decades. I am appalled to see this is now causing people to die, due to their greed and incompetence.

    Blaming others for their shoddy governing is not going to fly.

    look to inspiration from their churches. “Only the strong will survive and the weak will perish. Folks, God has given us the tools to support ourselves in times like this,” he said.

    What a tool!!! If their god actually existed, I would call this storm divine retribution for the magas violent attack on congress. A rather large percentage of those rats seem to be from Texas.

  6. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    As far as I can tell, it’s not correct to blame renewables especially. It’s also not correct to blame natural gas or fossil fuels. It seems all power plants, including renewables and natural gas, have been underproducing in Texas because of the cold weather. The problem seems to be the lack of proper infrastructure upgrades to handle cold weather like this. Texas experienced this same sort of problem about a decade ago. Reports were written about the need to upgrade infrastructure to handle cold weather like this, and apparently it never happened.

  7. ardipithecus says

    I don’t know why all the fuss about Ted Cruz. He’s only doing what the Colorado City mayor told him to do. Besides, going somewhere else is probably the most constructive thing Cruz has ever done.

  8. Tethys says

    I live in the coldest state in the lower 48, where it’s finally going to hit double digit above 0F temperatures today after more than a week of arctic air.

    However, we have central heating systems and houses that are designed for our climate extremes.

    In MO and places further south, the only home heating they have tend to be built in electric space heaters, the most inefficient and costly form of winter heating.

    In rural areas there isn’t even access to natural gas as a fuel. Propane is their only option, assuming they have any central heating in the first place.

  9. jenorafeuer says

    And as people have been pointing out elsewhere, we’ve had wind turbines operating in Canada without seizing up like that for decades now…

    The last major power outage here in Toronto was caused by an ice storm in 2013. I was without power for two days, other parts of the city were without power for over a week. (The storm happened on December 22nd, and some places were without power until New Year’s Eve.) The city opened up warming shelters and had transit available to get to them throughout the emergency

    In our case, it wasn’t an electrical generation failure, it was a transmission failure. On my street, a collapsed tree branches took out the power lines running along the street. In other parts of town, water leaked inside some of the transformers and then froze, bursting the transformers open. The city had replacements available, of course… but only replacements for about 10% of the transformers in the city, and more than that blew. Part of the reason why some people were without power for a week is that the city had to get new transformers and extra people to help install them, and everybody else in the province was busy with the results of the ice storm already.

  10. Who Cares says

    What is more revolting about Abbot is that before going on FN and blatantly lie about circumstances he held a press conference where he correctly laid the main problem with the coal, gas & nuclear plants going offline/not getting online (link).

    And even in that press conference he was lying by implication by stating that 17 GW of wind power was offline, conveniently omitting that that is peak capacity and that the ERCOT forecast for wind power was a 6 GW to 7 GW average, of which they lost 1 GW to 2 GW. In addition to that they lost 20 GW of coal & gas and 9 GW of nuclear.
    And yes Abbot stated a 46 GW deficiency instead of the roughly 30 GW that is the number given by ERCOT.

  11. jrkrideau says

    @ 10 Reginald Selkirk
    Ted Cruz in Mexico: confirmed and lampooned at length

    Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, at the height of the wildfires was giving interviews from a beach in Hawaii.

    @ 13 jenorafeuer
    I live just down the 401 from you. I don’t remember the 2013 ice storm hitting us but we had weather warnings about it and everyone that remembers the 1998 ice storm was jumpy. Around here, nobody really worries about a snowstorm. It may mean a day of no school or even no work but freezing rain generates the next best thing to panic.

  12. says

    When “regulations are bad” is your manta, you do away with the good, useful regulations that actually keep you safe.

    Tom Boyd also seems to have forgotten that one of the main reasons we have a society is to help each other collectively. You don’t get to sit at a computer and yell at people without society and government.

  13. Jörg says

    Last week we had freezing rain in my town in Germany, and after that temperatures well below -10°C/14F for days. My main concern was for the postwoman to safely get to my letterbox, not heating or electricity. The US is really strange.

  14. bmiller says

    Jorg: The word I use to describe this failed state/flailing empire the Disunited States, is “sad”, not strange. Just pray we don’t take the rest of you down with you. It’s a shame that the main alternative seems to be the secretive, totalitarian, but competent Chinese regime. Learn Mandarin, kids! 🙂

  15. jrkrideau says

    @ 18 Jörg

    A serious problem in the USA and Canada is that most power transmission lines are on poles. Enough freezing rain will snap the wire or take down a pole or a pylon.

    Collapsed pylon . Next picture down is a Canada Post letter carrier at work. I still cannot find the photos of the railway locomotives driving down a city street. They were to supply emergency power to a hospital.

    A bit like Texas our infrastructure was just not adequate but we did have the excuse that woe had never seen anything like this.

  16. avalus says

    “Folks, God has given us the tools to support ourselves in times like this,”
    Ah yes, let’s not forget the electrical generator that big g gave every human … .

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