Commentary: They knew it would happen sooner or later. They were betting on later. They lost and Texans paid with their lives.
Back when George W. Bush was governor and drag queens did more than twirl their wigs and jump off stages landing in a split, the Texas power grid was deregulated because “small government,” “regulations are bad for business,” “capitalism, not socialism,” blah blah blah.
None of this had to happen. In the dry language of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Texas, which maintains its own grid to avoid federal regulation, was hit with a cold-weather event “unusually severe in terms of temperature, wind, and duration.” This forced the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, to resort to “system-wide rolling blackouts to prevent more widespread customer outages.”
Unfortunately, “generators and natural gas producers suffered severe losses of capacity despite having received accurate forecasts of the storm.” ERCOT had reserved in anticipation of the storm, but those “reserves proved insufficient” once the cold hit. Many generators had “failed to adequately apply and institutionalize knowledge and recommendations from previous severe winter weather events, especially as to winterization of generation and plant auxiliary equipment.”
That’s a good description of the events of Texas’ recent winter storm that cut power to millions of people. Regrettably, that description is about the 2011 winter storm by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission investigating the failures of the Texas power grid that year.
That report advocated that “all entities responsible for the reliability of the bulk power system in the Southwest prepare for the winter season with the same sense of urgency and priority as they prepare for the summer peak season.”
Rick Perry, the governor in 2011, and the Texas legislature failed to act on the recommendations. Securely in the grasp of the energy companies, Perry and his cohorts at ERCOT issued a set of voluntary “best practices.” Given the choice between spending millions of dollars to winterize the Texas power grid or not, they decided to keep the money in their pockets.
“Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” Perry wrote after the recent storm. He can go straight to where finding heat to stay warm isn’t a problem.
Perry’s successor, Greg Abbott, found time to sign anti-gay legislation but not to work on ensuring a reliable energy source, because you know, Texans would rather freeze than do without chicken sandwiches. In 2019, Abbott signed what was dubbed the anti-LGBTQ “Save Chick-fil-A” bill into law. Not only did he sign the bill, he signed it while surrounded by Chick-fil-A food and drink cups because a good Republican never passes on an opportunity to “own the libs.”
“No business should be discriminated against simply because its owners donate to a church, the Salvation Army, or other religious organization,” Abbott said. “No business should lose a government contract because of their religious beliefs. The Save Chick-fil-A legislation that I’m about to sign is a victory for religious freedom in Texas.”
You know what else no business, and individuals for that matter, should lose? Electricity for days and days during the middle of the worst winter storm in a decade.
Rather than take responsibility, the oil and gas owned governor tried to affix blame for Texas’ failure to keep its citizens safe from wind turbines and indirectly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal. He can join Perry where finding heat to stay warm isn’t a problem.
Then there is Senator Fled Cruz. He booked a room at a Mexican Ritz, packed up a suitcase, and fled his home in River Oaks in Houston. As millions of Texans were suffering in subfreezing temperatures without power and water, Cruz traveled with his family to sunny Cancún. Then lied, blaming his kids because that’s page one in the Republican playbook. They learned it from the best, the former president.
Perhaps worst of all, he left the family dog home alone with no power or heat. He can join Perry and Abbott where finding heat to stay warm isn’t a problem.
In addition to demanding winterization of the power grid, Texans need to know who made decisions on whose electricity was turned off. We were initially told there would be rolling blackouts and prepared for that.
But instead, someone decided to turn the power off for certain parts of Texas for days while others were only minimally affected, if at all. In Galveston for example, 90 percent of the island went dark and stayed that way for over 50 hours.
People died because of Texas’ leaders’ incompetence, corruption, and failures. They put money and culture wars over lives. Energy Capital of the World, my frozen middle finger.
Texans don’t ask for nor expect a lot from the government. What we do expect is the basics — paved streets, clean water, and electricity — so as not to freeze to death in our own homes.