Texas disaster reveals power grid issues

By Daniel Knox, Staff Writer

A bitter cold has swept across the country over the last few weeks causing widespread power outages and dangerous conditions throughout the Southwest. On February 11 President Joe Biden approved Texas Governor Greg Abbot’s request to declare a state of emergency in all 254 counties. FEMA has been deployed to the area and disaster relief is to be provided at 75 percent funding. The situation on the ground is dire. Texas residents have had to resort to sleeping in their cars and burning their own belongings to combat the bitter cold.

According to NBCDFW, “North Texas shattered a previous record low on Tuesday morning after dropping to a -2º at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.” The cold has caused considerable damage to Texas’ infrastructure and millions of residents have been left without power. The record breaking cold has caused additional stress on pipes and treatment plants. Many residents of Texas are under a boil order, while others go without water at all and are experiencing loss of personal property due to burst water pipes. Energy companies have initiated rotating, controlled power outages in an attempt to ration power, but the Houston Chronicle has reported at least 10 deaths due to the storm as of Feb. 17.

State officials, working with local businesses and outreach groups, have organized warming centers throughout the state for those most in need. For those who need to remain home, the National Weather Service recommends closing blinds and curtains, closing off rooms and stuffing towels in the cracks under the door. However, one Texas Mayor  had some different advice. Former Colorado City Mayor Tim Boyd faced intense backlash for Facebook posts basically telling residents to fend for themselves. In his words,  “If you’re sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy is direct result of your raising.” Soon after, he resigned. Unfortunately, those who have no option but to remain at home are left with little hope of immediate assistance as the situation continues to get worse.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott had a different take on what was causing the problem. One recent evening, he addressed the emergency on Fox News with Sean Hannity saying, “This shows how the Green New Deal would be deadly for the United States of America. Our wind and solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis. It just shows fossil fuels are necessary.” The cold has damaged all different aspects of the infrastructure, including solar and wind. However, the Washington Post reported that, “Although renewable energy sources did fail, they only contributed to 13 percent of the outages, while providing about a quarter of the state’s energy in the winter.”

So, while the power grid has dealt with failure across the board, green energy is not why Texas is experiencing outages. Fossil fuel based energy has been the main contributor, accounting for not only a larger percentage of the outages, but a far larger percentage of energy provided as well. Additionally, the Green New Deal is a policy proposal, not legislation, and even if it was, Texas is not in adherence.

The region almost never experiences such extreme weather and its infrastructure wasn’t equipped to deal with it, green or otherwise. In fact, the Post reported: “The state’s decision to skirt federal oversight is one of the main reasons 3.3 million residents still lacked power Wednesday morning.” As a result of the lack of federal regulation, power companies have no incentive to keep reserves of energy for emergencies like this. Texas actually runs its own power grid called the Texas Interconnection, one of only 3 in America. It is managed by ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and does not cross state lines so as to remain independent of the federal government. So, when it comes to these shortages, the buck stops in Texas. ERCOT regulations, or lack thereof, allowed power companies to cut corners and, as such, they were not prepared for this winter weather emergency.