Texas is unprepared in face of massive snowstorm

By AMANDA GIAMPAGLIA
On February 24, 2021

Photo courtesy of Matt Johnson, Flickr

Last week, millions of Texans were left without power in their homes, leaving them freezing in horrifying conditions. This tragedy caused the deaths of multiple people, with causes ranging from hypothermia to lack of power.

Included in Texas's losses are large quantities of the COVID-19 vaccines, and unreasonably high utility bills given to many state residents.

The continental United States is split up between three power grids, as explained by Kate Galbraith of the Texas Tribune.

“There are three grids in the lower 48 states: the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection — and Texas,” she said. 

The reasoning behind this is statewide blackout could be traced to the “Republic of Texas” ethos, where the state desires independence from the rest of the country and the government. The near-collapse of the state’s power system can be traced back to a decision made in 1999 to give control of Texas’s electricity delivery system to private generators, energy retailers and transmission companies who are all market-based.

“Competition in the electric industry will benefit Texans by reducing monthly rates and offering consumers more choices about the power they use,” George W. Bush, who was at the time the state's governor, said as he signed the top-to-bottom deregulation legislation.

This was a decision that was wanted by everybody: the citizens, politicians in both parties and the energy industry. 

This system worked for a while, but this deregulated system created few safeguards and even less enforced rules, as reported by Clifford Krauss, Manny Fernandez, Ivan Penn and Rick Rojas of the New York Times.

“With so many cost-conscious utilities competing for budget-shopping consumers, there was little financial incentive to invest in weather protection and maintenance," the New York Times team wrote. "Wind turbines are not equipped with the de-icing equipment routinely installed in the colder climes of the Dakotas and power lines have little insulation. The possibility of more frequent cold-weather events was never built into infrastructure plans in a state where climate change remains an exotic, disputed concept.” 

This separation from the rest of the continental U.S. means it can only borrow power from a few neighboring states. Texas has many natural resources like natural gas, but the extreme weather makes these energy sources hard to manage.

“The cold was so severe that the enormous oil and natural gas fields of West Texas froze up, or could not get sufficient power to operate. Though a few plants had stored gas reserves, there was insufficient electricity to pump it," the New York Times reported.

This is when we must begin to question if Texas was prepared for this disaster and if their government handled the tragedy correctly. 

I do not think that the state’s leaders were prepared for this or handled this well, considering Sen. Ted Cruz left the state for Mexico, running away from the people suffering in his state.

This display was followed by excuses by the Senator that he regrets his decision to go to Mexico, and the second he sat on the plane, he was second-guessing the trip. I believe that the true reason Cruz came back from Mexico the day after he left was so he did not have to deal with backlash for leaving. 

“The state’s Republican leadership was blamed for ignoring warnings that winter could wreak the havoc that it did, and for not providing local officials with enough information to protect residents now," Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant said. "A lack of regulations to protect critical infrastructure and failure by officials to take recommended steps to winterize equipment left the nation’s largest energy-producing state unprepared for last week’s weather emergency.” 

The state must reevaluate its power systems and upgrade the systems to be able to handle severe winter weather. With climate change being such a large issue today even with its lack of acknowledgment from Republican leaders, it will continue to be a major issue, so people can expect more severe weather to hit this country and the rest of the world. 

 

agiampag@ramapo.edu

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