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.