In a world where technology and knowledge has never been so abundant, it seems, so is greed and corporate manslaughter. The land of the free where nothing is ever free, has once again taught us that people come second to profit. Never more so when Republicans are driving the bus. It would seem that the obsession with energy independence has been largely driven by the intent to avoid federal regulations on energy supply. I have no problem with energy independence if you can make it work. However, when the lack of regulation leads to corner cutting and lack of maintenance at the alter of free markets, you then run into dangerous territory and it inevitably leads to loss of life, as it has done in this case.
In times of crisis, people turn to their leaders for help, in this case, only to find they are busy on Fox News blaming the Green New Deal for the problem, or heading off to the sun in Cancun, where freezing pipes aren't likely to be an issue. It is worthy of note, that unlike his predecessor, President Biden swiftly issued an Emergency Declaration
on 14 February to provide assistance and relief to the state. This in stark contrast to what Trump did when California was burning.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, known as ERCOT, manages the state’s power grid. Ercot is technically a non-profit corporation, and while it functions independently from the state’s government, the corporation is overseen by a state agency called the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Members of the commission are appointed by the state’s governor. (see more detail in this excerpt from a Guardian piece) This has got all the hallmarks of the 'old boys network' written all over it and I'm sure, as the causes of this catastrophe are subject to forensic scrutiny, details of political links and drivers will become evident.
Blackouts have happened before. In 2011 Texas experienced similar blackouts, but these were not at the levels being experienced today. There was an inquiry following this event and recommendations were made to increase reserves (though this measure would have had no impact on current event), but more importantly, to weatherise the power infrastructure. Clearly this has either not been done or certainly not been done properly.
Despite Governor Abbott's political driven comments on Fox News, Texas largely relies on natural gas for it's power generation and in very low temperatures, natural gas flows are subject to flow reduction. The failed 'Windmills' that Abbott childishly refers to, is NOT a widespread issue as he was indicating in his propagandist rant. In Iowa 40% of it's electricity is generated by wind turbines and they suffer freezing temperatures on a far more regular basis that Texas. These seem to be able to operate them without issue. So the question is, what is different about Texan wind turbines? One can only assume they were not suitably weatherised, as was recommended for power infrastructure after the problems in 2011.
The bottom line, is that politics is never too far away when these events occur and in true form, Texas politicians are running away from the problem, quite literally in the case of Ted Cruz. The response from political leaders has been nothing short of shocking. The official response from the the power supplier was; “Had ERCOT not acted promptly to shed load, it would very likely have suffered widespread, uncontrolled blackouts throughout the entire ERCOT Interconnection.”
The political response? The speaker of the State House said “We must cut through the finger-pointing and hear directly from stakeholders about the factors that contributed to generation staying down at a time when families needed it most, what our state can do to correct these issues and what steps regulators and grid operators are taking to safeguard our electric grid," Hmm, horse bolted springs to mind here. Governor Abbott, went straight after ERCOT; “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” he said. “Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions.” Later in the day, Abbott went on to say; “This was a total failure by ERCOT,"
Just so we are clear, while people were freezing, dying and in deep distress, the right wing leaders in Texas were callously pushing more lies to place the problems being experienced by Texans, at the door of the 'radical left' and their Green New Deal.
This was being aided and abetted by Tucker Carlson and Fox News who said; "So it was all working great until the day it got cold outside. The windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died — a lot more of them than died at the Capitol on Jan. 6, by the way, just for reference," He went on to say,"We're telling you all this not to beat up on the state of Texas ... but to give you some sense about what's going to happen to you, in every state,"
Sadly, the right wing messaging machine has no problem exploiting the suffering of Texans to sell A LIE. Carlson's lie, was then amplified on social media by Lauren Boebert and Dan Crenshaw (another Texan Republican). Former governor Rick Perry spoke for Texans, without their permission of course and said, “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” This wasn't a response on behalf of the people, it was a response on behalf of their political masters. This tells you all you need to know about where the political priorities are and it's certainly not with the welfare of the people of Texas. If you'd like to read the full statement here it is. I read a fantastic tweet yesterday that said, 'If the power grid had been a uterus, Texas would have regulated the f-ck out of it.' Pay a visit to @irishygirl for more irreverent commentary, I can highly recommend her Twitter account.
I have spoke about it many times, about how well tuned the GOP messaging machine is to attack Dems policy and how lamentably slow Democrats are to counter the narrative. By the time the Dems messaging machine had woken up and responded, the narrative was already out there. As Saikat Chakrabarti, the former chief of staff to AOC tweeted, "People on the left don't watch conservative media, so entire false narratives in right wing media go unchallenged. The entire right is using the Texas blackouts right now to create a narrative about the failure of green energy. It's 100% false. It needs to be challenged head on,"
The reality is, that whilst all this blame is being thrown around, PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING amidst the political dogma. Let me try and explain this in a way that keeps the complexity out of it. An independent grid 'free from federal interference' comes at a cost in times of crisis. The two main US power grids that supply power to the rest of the US is an integrated grid system, that has built in redundancy. In short, if there is a spike for demand in one area, the grid can adjust to meet that demand. It's a little like computer servers that service the Internet. As demand rises in one part of the world, the other part of the world is sleeping, so servers can adjust to meet network traffic demand. In IT terms, it's called 'load balancing'. The US power grid is subject to rigorous federal regulation, to ensure that the system can meet the types of surge demand experienced in Texas. Yes, regulation comes at a cost, but that cost is a good investment to protect life, property and infrastructure.
In Texas there is no access to the wider grid, as the state is energy independent. This means that Texas has to provide its own system redundancies and has to ensure that its infrastructure can cope with a severe weather event such has occurred. To be blunt, the event has exposed redundancy measures that failed catastrophically, leading to the loss of life. This is the price you pay for non-investment in system resilience. Texas is incredibly energy rich, priding itself as the 'backbone of American energy security', but today, it looks like a third world failing energy state. Suffering is going on in America's fourth largest city Houston. People throughout the state are without power, and in many cases, without water for days. This is nothing short of a scandal. To underline the failure, it would seem, only El Paso, took heed of the report following 'The big chill' in 2011 and did build in more resilience. Guess what? They have been far less affected and still have power. This is another case of failed state and local government leadership.
The bottom line is, it seems like a catalogue of failures has led to desperate hardship and danger to life. It's as if state leaders are saying to Texans, 'You are on your own'. Needless to say, cities and authorities are doing their best to step up by providing 'warming centres'. Here are some details with links out to twitter feeds of the various local jurisdictions. In addition, you can take a look at this piece from the Austin American Statesman, for further helpful links.
I would like to end this short blog post by offering my heartfelt sympathy for all those affected by this catastrophic event. I hope that relief reaches all those in desperate need and that communities will come together to care for each other. This isn't about politics, it's about strength through collective responsibility and concern for others. I really don't care how anyone voted, this is about human suffering, families and children are in severe distress. People have died and unless things improve, there could be more loss of life. God's speed.
Thank you for taking time to stop by and stay safe out there. I have a video being released late this evening to visualise my thoughts on this. I will add it to this blog post once complete.