Texas Power Outage: What Really Happened in Texas?
Let’s call the Texas power outage what it is. This is a complete system failure due to the climate crisis. Even worse, Texas has been ignoring warnings about preparing for the freezing climate change. Between February 14 and 16, the average temperature in Dallas Fort Worth area was 10.8º F. Over time, the average low in Texas during the month of February is 41º F. Over three days in 2021, Northern Texas experiences heavy snowfall with a severity not seen in years.
Clearly, climate crisis is to blame. It’s freezing in Texas and fires rage in California. Due to these unprecedented below-freezing temperatures, a whole host of issues are triggered. Equipment and machinery at power plants froze. In addition, gathering lines, natural gas wells, pipelines, and wind turbines suffered the deep-freeze as well.
When the Lone Star power grid reached a breaking point, the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) implemented periodic and alternating power outages for five days. The result left four million Texans without electricity or heat and causing the deaths of more than eighty people.
Was the Power Outage Preventable?
Texas Power Outage
It was absolutely preventable. Dozens of states across the U.S. experience similar and colder weather. For example, Minnesota’s polar vortex in 2019 hit a low of -28º F. This year, the Twin Cities temps were between -15º F and -20º F. Had Texas heeded the 2011 warnings, an 11-year-old boy found frozen in bed and all of the deceased could still be alive.
Decade of Climate Warnings
In 2011, a similar polar vortex hit Texas. The state received hundreds of recommendations to ensure that residents would not lose power again. These included ERCOT preparing for summer heat-waves which entails winterizing energy sources and check thermal insulation. Improving communications during severe weather and all-hands-on-deck preparation is essential. Instructions were extensive, like plans to lift emission limitations in case of severe weather.
None of these vital recommendations were mandated. Texans in government failed at legislating preventative measures. The decision was left up to the individual power companies. In America, free enterprise and political corruption means profit wins. Unlike states accustomed to frigid temps, Texas gambled against climate change.
Lone Star Lone Power Grid
Texas reminds me of a petulant child who insists they know what they’re doing. The Lone Star is the only state with its own power grid. Texas has a history of isolation. In the 19th century, utility companies began producing electricity for “ice plants.” Thus giving any excess to businesses and homes in surrounding areas.
In 1934, the federal government passed the Federal Power Act, giving the central government control over interstate transmission of electricity. Given its love for isolation, Texas power plants quickly agreed not to share electricity with external states.
When the US encountered major power outages in the 60s, Congress passed new regulations to ensure that such a large power outage wouldn’t happen again. In response, Texas created the now-infamous, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in 1970. The Texas Electric Reliability Council became “the country’s first independent system operator.”
GOP Governor Greg Abbot Blames the Libs
Things get messier when looking beyond the energy companies and their poor decisions. Let’s focus instead on Republican politicians and money. The Texas power grid is separate from the rest of the country. This means that Governor Greg Abbott has significantly more sway regarding power supply choices. Abbot quickly went down the well-paved Republican path of blaming “the liberal left.”
Green New Deal
Frozen wind turbines are an energy efficient alternative to fossil fuel mentioned in the Green New Deal. The New York Times quotes Abbot saying the Texas crisis “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.” However, what the GOP gov failed to mention is the Texas-sanctioned natural gas pipes freezing is why Texans were left unprotected.
Ted Cruz Abandons Texans
Furthermore, Abbott’s failed attempts to blame the liberal agenda were overlooked due to Republican Senator Ted Cruz taking an untimely trip to Cancún, Mexico. Social media immediately went nuts posting photos of Cruz and his wife boarding a plane to Cancún. Not only was this ill-timed vacation amidst a worsening airborne pandemic, it was during his state’s biggest crisis in recent memory.
Are we really surprised, though? Is a Republican senator abandoning the state he is meant to represent shocking? Nyah. Given that Cruz repeatedly undermined the severity of the coronavirus, it is not surprising he feels free to travel by plane.
Cruz’s wife, an all-American, Californian, Ivy-league educated woman epitomizes white privilege. Her leaked texts to Cruz reveal that her hubby lied. The Cruz vacation was preplanned. Ms. Cruz shows disregard for those affected by the power outage – including the minority communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
International travel is unwise in the current situation, but international travel to developing countries such as Mexico is neocolonialist at best. Neocolonialism, most commonly used in reference to the Cold-War era, refers to the US and its allies exerting economic, political, and financial domination over seemingly “free” developing nations in the name of ‘foreign aid.’ This farce actually blocks growth to retain them as sources of cheap raw materials and cheap labor.
In 2019, Mexico was the second largest importer of “supplier of goods” to the US. Additionally, we are Mexico’s largest foreign investor at 39% of its inflows in 2018. On top of that, Mexico relies heavily on tourism revenue to survive. Also in 2019, Mexico gained $25 billion in revenue from its 45 million visitors.
Coronavirus and Mexico
I can’t help but wonder if neocolonialists include Americans who assume Mexico would rather have US travelers boosting their economy versus staying home to slow the spread of the pandemic. Mexico has reported over 2 million Coronavirus cases, new cases spiking as the cold winter months progress in the Northern Hemisphere.
Hotspots in Mexico include Baja California Sur, Mexico City, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo, all of which are American go-to travel destinations. Whether you want to call it neocolonialism or not, travel to Mexico in COVID-era is not in anyone’s best interest.
As if power outage catastrophes weren’t enough, now the southernmost region of Texas is experiencing the aftermath of defreezing water. Frozen pipes led to bursting pipes. Frozen water treatment plants led to contaminated water. Loss of power meant a loss of perishable items. Yes, millions of people now have power, but millions of people are missing other basic necessities such as water and food.
As of right now, residents are filing lawsuits against ERCOT. They are focusing on the lack of preparation to meet the winter storm and being responsible for the outages. Gov. Abbott outlined four key goals following the winter storm. He names them as: power, clean water, food and basic necessities, and restarting oil refineries. He has achieved only one.
Meanwhile, Ted Cruz keeps digging himself deeper and deeper. He’s under fire for his Cancun day-trip and using his children as an excuse. He was quoted swearing on Ruthless podcast calling the leaks in his wife’s group “assholes.” At the Conservative Political Action Conference February 26th in Orlando, Cruz joked, “Orlando is awesome! It’s not as nice as Cancun.”
Now, making matters worse, there’s a possibility he “funneled political donations into his own pocket.” And, yes, that is illegal. A few roses in a week full of thorns: the city of Austin received 10,000 cases of water. Over 320 plumbers renewed their plumbing licenses to up water-testing. And H-E-B stores donate one million dollars to Texas food banks.
Climate Crisis and COVID-19
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, discourse in relation to the usefulness of isolationism has begun to resurface. Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University argues that isolationism at one point “cleared the way for America’s ascent, making the country prosperous, powerful, and secure.”
Since then, we’ve seen American expansionism rise with the underlying belief that it is our responsibility to spread democracy and liberty–we see this in the Cold War-era soft-wars and in our neocolonialist tendencies in South America and the Middle East.
Partisanship and Climate Denial
If we’re looking solely at what isolationism looked like when the term was first coined in the 1930s, then yes isolation is the answer. Just like the post-Depression era, we are no longer the number one country in the world in a lot of aspects; we’re number two in education, we were 15th in freedom in 2019, and 37th in healthcare in 2021.
However, when it comes to a crisis as global as the one we are experiencing with the climate crisis, now is absolutely not the time for us to revert to our World War I isolationist policies. Trump’s leaving of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 was one of his many attempts to make the US less responsive to the global cry for climate policy that accurately reflects the ongoing crisis.
Trump Blinded Them with Anti-Science
After four long years of anti-science rhetoric coming from the White House, America is riddled with problems. Thanks to climate deniers, we see far too many preventable deaths. In addition, we see an inexplicable refusal to accept scientific facts and advice from experts. Ignoring expert advice, Texas sees freezing temps. Fires rage in the west. Peaceful protests become violent and police brutality is out of control.
White Supremacists in power create and encourage homegrown terrorists. Attempts at gun control are shot down and mass shootings way up. And infectious disease experts beg people to stay home, but instruct anyone who must go out, to wear a mask and stand six-feet apart. Instead of adherence, we see defiance and super-spreaders and now half a million Americans are dead.
POTUS Biden and VP Harris Bring Hope
Thankfully, one of the first executive orders signed by President Biden established climate change as an essential element of US foreign policy and national security. Alongside those, Biden gives dozens of directives based in science.
Earth’s manmade climate crisis includes the polar vortex sweeping the globe, ice caps melt and wildlife is threatened to possible extinction. The Texas power outage disaster is only one of Mother Nature’s many loud warning signs. We need aggressive change in climate policy – and we need it now.