Texas is currently experiencing a huge snow storm that has caused hundreds of thousands to lose power and dozens to freeze to death. But an even greater catastrophe was averted.
Texas’ power grid was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months, officials with the entity that operates the grid said Thursday. The decision grid operators made early Monday morning to begin what was intended to be rolling blackouts — but have lasted days for millions of Texans — occurred because operators were seeing warning signs that massive amounts of energy supply was dropping off the grid. As natural gas fired plants, utility scale wind power and coal plants tripped offline due to the extreme cold brought by the winter storm, the amount of power supplied to the grid to be distributed across the state fell rapidly. At the same time, need was increasing as consumers and businesses turned up the heat and stayed inside to avoid the weather. Grid operators had to act quickly to cut the amount of power distributed, ERCOT president Bill Magness said, because if they had waited, “then what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk.” Magness said on Wednesday that if operators had not acted in that moment, the state could have suffered blackouts that “could have occurred for months” and left Texas in an “indeterminately long” crisis. The worst case scenario: Demand for power overwhelms the supply of power generation available on the grid, causing equipment to catch fire, substations to blow, power lines to go down. More on what went wrong: Experts say Texas leaders failed to heed warnings that left the state’s power grid vulnerable to winter extremes
But how bad is it really? On the ground, the situation is dire, as these examples illustrate.
• 264,000 in areas where water systems are completely non-operational
• At least 37 people have died because of weather-related fatalities since Thursday, the majority in Texas
People wait in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday in Houston. Customers waited over an hour in freezing rain.
Millions in Texas still had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity. Woman rests inside a Gallery Furniture store that opened as a shelter Wednesday in Houston after millions lost power due to historic low temperatures across Texas. Father John Szatkowski of St. Paul The Apostle Church stands looking at his flooded atrium caused by a broken water line in Richardson, Texas. Father Szatkowski and his staff discovered the flooding as they prepared for Ash Wednesday services. Rescued turtles stunned by cold weather are placed in an evacuation center in South Padre Island, Texas. People wait in long line at a supermarket in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday. People collect firewood with others from a wood heap opened to the public Wednesday in Dallas. With a long line of people waiting in their vehicles, groups of 13 were allowed 6 minutes to load as much wood as they could carry away from the recycling center. A homeless camp under a bridge on I-35 in Austin, Texas on Wednesday as Texas experiences historic low temperatures. A Fiesta Mart staff member tells customers that the store is closed because of a power outage in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday.500,000+ Texans are still without power on Thursday. Owner Jim McIngvale collects trash inside Gallery Furniture store which he opened as a shelter Wednesday in Houston as millions of Texans still had no power. Man wipes a tear while taking refuge in a shelter after record-breaking winter temperatures in Galveston, Texas, on Thursday. Customers wait outside at a Home Depot in Pearland, Texas, on Wednesday. The store would only let one person in at a time because the store has no power. Texans fill water jugs and coolers using a hose from a public park water spigot Thursday in Houston. Houston and several surrounding cities are under a boil water notice as many residents are still without running water in their homes. An HEB grocery store employee hands out flowers to customers waiting in line in the snow Thursday in Austin, Texas. The store did not have milk, eggs, meat or refrigerated items. Man uses lava rocks from a grill to heat household as historic winter weather caused electricity blackouts in San Marcos, Texas, on Tuesday. Man huddles around space heaters powered by a generator after electricity blackouts in San Marcos, Texas, on Tuesday. Most gas stations are completely out of fuel after a snow storm Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. The storm has brought historic cold weather and power outages to Texas. Trucks are at a standstill southbound on Interstate Highway 35 on Thursday in Killeen, Texas. A worker transports water bottles from the City of Houston Upper Braes Warehouse to delivery trucks Thursday. Houston is currently under a boil water notice because of issues with the water treatment process due to historic weather. Bill Karins highlights expected record low temperatures in some Texas regions overnight Friday (left) before warmer temperatures arrive over the weekend (right). Donated water is distributed to residents Thursday in Houston. Houston and several surrounding cities are under a boil water notice as many residents are still without running water in their homes. A homeless woman under blankets in downtown San Antonio as sub-freezing weather continues across regions of Texas.
To make matters worse, ERCOT is threatening to raise prices on already extremely high heating bills in response to this crisis. And lawmakers are going along with it.
As a result, the Public Utility Commission of Texas held an emergency meeting where officials introduced an order that would adjust energy prices. “Energy prices should reflect scarcity of the supply. If customer load is being shed, scarcity is at its maximum, and the market price for the energy needed to serve that load should also be at its highest,” the order said in part. The order also stated that The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the organization that monitors Texas’ power grid, should correct any past prices to reflect the current shortage of energy.
Why is “market price” the only thing Republicans can think about during the crisis? People are dying and their biggest concern is making corporations rich. Here’s a crazy idea, de-commodify public utilities so they actually serve people and not corporate profits.
The Texas blackouts perfectly illustrate how post-70s deregulation has simply been a project of destroying state capacity, infrastructure, and coordinating industrial institutions—and replacing them with absolutely nothing.
The more stuff like this happens, the less reason you have to call America a developed country.
But if you thought the energy company was the only greed capitalist vulture in this crisis, oh how wrong you would be.
Hotels in Austin are utterly booked as people escape freezing homes. There is availability at a Ramada by Wyndham in South Austin. Price? $999.
Over three-dozen people have frozen to death…in Texas (!) and the hotel response is to raise prices astronomically. If ever there was proof of capitalistic greed, here it is. The desperation, with no help in sight, is so strong that people are dying of carbon monoxide poisoning because they’re sleeping using gas stoves to heat apartments. Lastly, is the meat and potatoes of this whole saga, and that is the outright lie being pushed by the right that the Green New Deal and renewable energy like wind turbines are responsible for so many losing power.
Texas largely relies on natural gas — especially during times of high demand — to power the state. Experts say natural gas infrastructure, from pumping it out of the ground to the plants in city centers, was unprepared for the plunging temperatures brought by the winter storm.
Lost wind power was expected to be a fraction of winter generation. All sources — from natural gas, to nuclear, to coal, to solar — have struggled to generate power during the storm that has left millions of Texans in the dark.
It’s confirmed: The blackouts in Texas are primarily because of frozen instruments at gas, coal and nuclear plants — as well limited supplies of gas, according to Ercot. Frozen wind turbines were the least significant factor. My caveat: No fuel is performing exceptionally well during this freeze. But coal, gas and nuclear make up 2/3 of Texas’s power mix during the winter, so those outages are having the biggest impact. If wind were a larger share of the mix, those outages would be more significant
Of course, no fuel is performing efficiently in a crisis, because when you designed your energy system around corporate profits and not actually getting people power, corners will be cut. Various GOP leaders blamed the Green New Deal, no version of which exists in Texas. Viral images were shared that were out of context and had nothing to do with the Texas outage.
With millions of Texas residents still without power amid frigid temperatures, conservative commentators have falsely claimed that wind turbines and solar energy were primarily to blame. “We should never build another wind turbine in Texas,” read a Tuesday Facebook post from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. “The experiment failed big time.” “This is a perfect example of the need for reliable energy sources like natural gas & coal,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, on Tuesday. In reality, failures in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy systems were responsible for nearly twice as many outages as frozen wind turbines and solar panels, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid, said in a press conference Tuesday. A viral photo of a helicopter de-icing a wind turbine was shared with claims it showed a “chemical” solution being applied to one of the massive wind generators in Texas. The only problem? The photo was taken in Sweden years ago, not in the U.S. in 2021. The helicopter sprayed hot water onto the wind turbine, not chemicals. Other social media users, including Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, puzzlingly labeled the Green New Deal as the culprit. Boebert tweeted on Monday that the proposal was “proven unsustainable as renewables are clearly unreliable.” But the Green New Deal is irrelevant, as no version of it exists in Texas or nationwide, said Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.
Neither right nor left have the actual solution to the problem of the environment, and natural disasters, because neither want to address the two core problems. The problems are not racism, partisanship or lack wind turbines. The two problems are global warming and capitalism. The solutions are myriad, but would have to involve a massive reduction in global populations, especially the third world and those from the third world living in the developed world, the end of endless-growth capitalism which has fueled the rise of populations in the third world, and a crackdown on corporate pollution, which would also involve military cuts and unprecedented wealth redistribution. The left cannot solve these problems because they want to fuel global population rise of brown people and will never question capitalism at its core, since leftism can’t exist without capitalism. The right can’t do it because they don’t accept the science or are obsessed with the military. An alternative right could do it, if it combined actual anti-capitalism, love of nature and an obsession with stabilizing the economic playing field, along with ending the American liberal empire. In short, too many people are using too many resources, and ones which will dry up; a new political paradigm is needed to deal with what our leaders are powerless to do.
Police updates: https://www.facebook.com/fortcollinspoliceservices/posts/3312643505507930
Thread on warnings: https://twitter.com/TexasTribune/status/1362483794339635206
Catastrophe article: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/18/texas-power-outages-ercot/
More power: https://twitter.com/tplohetski/status/1361731838465609728
On the ground thread: https://twitter.com/NBCNews/status/1362414490164334595|
Shit pants harder: https://twitter.com/lauragorsky/status/1362131327357775872
Governor responsible: https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/18/weather/texas-winter-storm-thursday/index.html
Crenshaw lies: https://twitter.com/RepDanCrenshaw/status/1361792727097212929
Tucker lies: https://twitter.com/EricLevitz/status/1361677478524317696
False narrative: https://twitter.com/justinbaragona/status/1361799581789528075
Deaths thread: https://twitter.com/TexasTribune/status/1362894135116632065
Hotel prices: https://twitter.com/tplohetski/status/1361516784654893057
Frozen natural gas: https://twitter.com/ctraywick/status/1361715146176024578
Natural gas reliance: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/natural-gas-power-storm/
Wind turbines: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/texas-wind-turbines-frozen/