Powerless in Texas

A sad spectacle here. The state that produces somewhere near half of the oil and gas in the US is having one of the worst power crises ever. Nearly half of Austin is without electricity and there is no schedule for when rthe lights get turned back on.

From my reading: the conservative fantasy world is trying to blame this on frozen windmills that produce power in the panhandle. This seems to be a red herring in many ways. First, many other places operate these pieces of infrastructure in cold climates. Seems someone in Texas cut corners and didn’t have fully weather proof systems. Certainly there has been an unprecedented winter storm, with temperatures below freezing for over 100 hours here in Austin, and there has been lots of ice and snow. But why is the whole state hit so hard and so early in the storm?

The answer is that Texas has its own power grid, which means it isn’t subject to federal regulation. It also means it can’t easily import electricity. This is all based on the free market energy reforms that brought us Enron (which was careful to only screw consumers in places like California, never in Texas). So independently run generators shut down for the winter and mothball capacity, saving it for big summer peaks. Except there isn’t any way to control the generation of power. It is all done by the free market. As demand grows, capacity will come on line to meet the demand. Except in this situation, plants aren’t on stand by and lack resources to re-start. Many thing could stop a situation like this. Texas could legislate that providers must supply power on demand, but that is so anti-free market. Or connect us to the rest of the US grid and buy and sell power nationally. Except that would let The Feds regulate at least some aspects of the Texas power grid. The Texas energy boys don’t want that, and you can draw your own conclusions as to why.

So here we are, (collectively) shivering in the dark, being fed lies by everyone including the governor. I have some hope. People are pissed. I hope businesses are reconsidering their view of Texas as a “friendly” place to do business. I hope this extreme free market ethos for things like infrastructure get called into question. We will know shortly. I think lots of people, up to and including the governor, need to lose their jobs, hopefully sooner rather than at election time.

One more bit. There is an ugly class warfare side to all this. While the big city skyscrapers with their multi million dollar condos stay lit up (and presumably heated) all the poorer neighborhoods surrounding them are blacked out. I am surprised the torches and pitchforks (and, this being Texas, guns) haven’t come out. But don’t think peasants haven’t noticed.

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