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By Cordelia Scales

Sophomore, GWU

On February 10, 2021, Texas was slammed by a winter storm that caused widespread power outages. 4.4 million people went without electricity for days, and at least 70 people died. After previous failures of the system, one would think that electricity companies and elected officials would do everything in their power to make sure that this would not happen again. But, it did happen again. Because of Texas’s lack of support from elected officials, their lack of equipment winterization, and their choice not to join the national power grid, a catastrophe occured and people lost their lives. So, it can be stated without question, that Texas failed Texans. 

 

Elected officials are in office to serve their constituents and to make sure that they are cared for. But, in Texas, they could not have cared less. Senator Ted Cruz decided to jet off to Cancun instead of helping his constituents during the crisis. He claimed that he was only going to stay the weekend with his daughters, but a quote given in his statement as he returned home to the States saying, “As it became a bigger and bigger firestorm, it became all the more compelling that I needed to come back,” would seem to suggest otherwise. Another official who didn’t seem to have a care in the world for his people was the mayor of Colorado City, Tim Boyd, who posted on Facebook:  “The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING” and “Sink or swim it’s your choice”. The nail in the coffin was when he wrote, “If you don’t have electricity, you step up and come up with a game plan to keep your family warm and safe.” He could have chosen to help his constituents prepare by handing out food and water instead of waiting for a private citizen, Beto O’Rourke, and a congresswoman from halfway across the country, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to step up and do it for him. Those two Democrats ended up raising over five million dollars, making over 784,000 calls to elderly citizens, and handing out massive amounts of water and other supplies.

 

Additionally, the Texas state government’s failure to require facilities that generate electricity to winterize their equipment is mainly what led to this catastrophe. Texas state officials were warned ten years ago by federal authorities, after a 2011 winter storm, that winterization was necessary. They have had ten years to prepare for something like this, and yet still failed to act. Additionally, most of the blame was wrongly placed on wind turbines freezing up; however, these claims are objectively false, as wind power is only responsible for 23% of Texas’s power generation. Moreover, it is completely possible to winterize wind turbines, as they do in Canada and Northern States, by equipping the turbines with heating and de-icing capabilities. Instead of taking this simple yet crucial step,  Texas’s government chose not to mandate winterization.

 

The Texas state government’s decision to not join the federal power grid also had a huge role to play in this most recent energy crisis. In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Federal Power Act, which would allow the federal government to regulate interstate power lines. Texas, under the leadership of Governor George W. Bush, decided not to participate in the interstate power grid in order to avoid federal regulation. They instead decided to form their own grid, providing electricity to 90% of its residents, called the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT for short. The grid ties into the interstate system at four points — two in Mexico and two in the northeastern part of the state — but these carry just a fraction of the amount of electricity that the rest of the ERCOT grid does. At the worst point during the crisis, the frequency of the electricity generation dipped below 59.4 Hz for four minutes and 23 seconds. Had the pattern concluded for another four minutes and 37 seconds, Texas would have been required to perform a “black start” procedure which would have left Texas in an indefinite blackout lasting for a period of weeks. Had Texas made the opposite decision — to tie into the national grid — electricity could have been diverted to Texas and the rolling blackouts could have been avoided. Because of Governor George W Bush’s decision to avoid regulation —  which led to the formation of ERCOT — Texas sequestered itself off, which led to disastrous results.

 

Texas was failed by the people who were supposed to protect her. In order to avoid another major energy crisis, Texas elected officials must make different decisions. They must mandate winterization of wind turbines, as well as of coal and natural gas power plants. They must also decide to tie into the national grid. It’s time for Texas’s elected officials to step up and do what is necessary to protect their constituents from ever experiencing something like this again.

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