Record breaking low temperatures in the Southern and Midwestern United States over the week of February 14th has caused a climate catastrophe through the effected states, especially in Texas. Millions have suffered for days or even a week so far without reliable access to power, water, or heat. Texas was hit particularly hard by the weather due to the fact that it is one of the only states with a power grid independent from the rest of the country and thus cannot lean on its neighboring states for support when its energy infrastructure is compromised.
But how exactly did Texas’ power grid get to the point where it can be knocked out for the better part of the week due to lower than average temperatures? According to experts at the Wall Street Journal, the problem begins with the fact that Texas power companies are not required to provide electricity and cannot be punished for failing to provide, even during an emergency. This failing of Texas law, when combined with the fact that the majority of Texas power providers have never made the necessary investments to fully weatherize their equipment and ensure its safe and regular function in either extreme cold or extreme heat. This resulted in many power deciding to simply shut down instead of risking damage to their equipment.
This situation has been widely seen as a failure for both energy providers and the Texas lawmakers, as either group could have foreseen such a disaster and taken meaningful action to ensure the full weatherization of all energy infrastructure in the state. There also exists a long history of Texas power providers coming close to similar disasters in the past due to a refusal to modernize or weatherize energy infrastructure. Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston, was quoted by CNN as saying about the failing of the energy infrastructure, “All of this was foreseeable. I wrote about it in 2011”. Turner, alongside other elected officials in Texas such as Mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price and Governor, Gregg Abbott, have also been vocal in speaking out against price gouging by energy providers. All three are advocating for either the state or federal government to pay the exorbitant fees charging Texas residents thousands of dollars for mere hours of service at a time.
At time of writing, some 11,000 Texan homes still lack power, down from the 3.4 million of last Wednesday, and whole regions, towns, and neighborhoods across the whole of Texas are still facing a lack of reliable access to water and food. This is far from the first climate disaster that Texas has faced, but it is certainly one of the most far-reaching. The means to prevent it were well within the grasp of both Texas lawmakers and Texas power providers for decades.
The question remains whether they have finally realized that action must be taken, before even greater disaster befalls the Lone Star State.
Joe Doner – Staff Writer