What Happened to the Texas Power Grid and Why It Matters for Florida

Raphael Alegeleye/PantherNow

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

A surprise I never expected from the 2020s is a nor’easter-style winter blast in Texas.

The land of God, guns, and pecan pie got pummeled this month, to the point where pipes were frozen, roads were slippery, and power was unattainable for days on end. Texans were under boil water orders when access to it was limited, and many had no means of nourishment for dangerous periods of time. Many homes were decimated.

Almost no one expected it, as it was the first time ever that Texas fell under a winter storm warning. But such is the new normal under climate change. Who knows, maybe Florida will be next? Drastic conditions like this mean reforms are needed in policy and mindset to keep all Americans safe from future calamities.

I don’t want to politicize the suffering of millions of people, but we must speak truthfully about what led to needless pain: the outdated policies of the Texas Republican Party.

We in Florida would benefit greatly from changes, too. We are dangerously close to losing coastal settlements and having more tornadoes in the panhandle. We know too well what hurricanes can do to us. Therefore, young Floridians have demanded more from their elected officials, most of whom are Republican and, like their Texan counterparts, beholden to corporate interests. Both Florida and Texas are growing, and seeing ever more natural disasters. Young people like us are especially vulnerable, with youth in both states seeing financial insecurity. So in many ways, my arguments about Texas are universal.

Under Ron DeSantis, Florida could very well see similar predicaments. Republicans here have not enacted meaningful policy in response to hurricanes that have taken too many lives. Although some positive steps have been taken, it is not nearly enough, much like the policies in Texas.

Texas stands out in many ways. It is among our fastest-growing states, earning not one, not two, but three new electoral votes this census. It is defined on the surface by its massive land area, conservative and independent political climate and diversity in culture. The northern areas fit images of the old-fashioned wild west, and the southern areas closely resembling Texas’ neighbor to the south, Mexico.

Texas became a Republican stronghold around 1980, and ever since 1994, only Republicans have held statewide office. Their appeals to libertarianism, rural values, and upholding the thriving fossil fuel industries made sense for Texas. But we are seeing the consequences of decades of one-party rule without a different approach.

The Texas power grid failed because it is grossly deregulated. Given that the Republicans have historically been close with the oil industry, it was not in anyone’s interest to make the necessary investments to strengthen it. And this is not new, as Texas is ground zero for deadly hurricanes and tornadoes.

This attitude is worth questioning, given that Republicans gave Texas its own grid and warned the Obama Administration about the national grid’s vulnerabilities. Once again, political and financial interests dominate.

After a 2014 cold snap, the Texas Public Utility Commission, after a feud with equipment company Luminant, lightened the changes to be implemented: power companies would only have to identify previously suspected needs instead of also looking into all possible issues. In the years since, warnings have been ignored by lawmakers and regulators of the grid’s vulnerability. 

Indeed, corporations and special interests have been protected and coddled by Republicans on both the national and state levels, hence why Republicans take little action to address brutally low wages and corporate wrongdoing overseas. Texas having its own power grid makes it immune to regulation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.

Not helping is that warnings such as a report documenting a 2011 storm’s results pointed out the state’s failure to prepare for cold weather events in particular.

Texas Republicans argue that higher prices will generate more power when it is most needed, which only harms consumers while raking in profits for corporations. They have also endorsed policies that create a more competitive environment as a supposed means of lowering consumer prices, a false promise. 

So, what must be done? A lot, indeed. While concerns about consumer well-being and federal overreach are commendable, more aggressive regulations are needed in an already corrupt system. 

Governor Greg Abbott has tried to link the failure to renewable energy, saying that wind and solar power were forcibly halted. However, he ignores that any energy system can technically work so long as it is winterized. Additionally, renewable energy only contributed to 13% of the statewide power outages while taking up a larger proportion of winter energy.

But perhaps a good starting point would be to elect politicians who demonstrate a commitment to the people. You’ve heard it over and over that Senator Ted Cruz fled to Cancun as Beto O’Rourke and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) raised millions to save their fellow Americans. 

Former Governor Rick Perry implied that Texans would rather suffer through this again than accept federal intervention. While libertarianism is good, this signals an attitude in excess, and an unwillingness to work for feasible solutions with the other side. It is insulting to the suffering Texans who disagree.

Additionally, more consumer representation in these corporate affairs, which Texas Democrats have brought up for debate, would help limit corporate favors and make the state government more representative of ordinary Texans.

Ultimately, every state must pay the price in reforming its energy infrastructure to adjust to our foreseeable climate reality. Floridians must push for this as well since we are strongly affected by climate change. Both sides must be willing to work together, and new forms of energy should be up for debate to keep the climate crisis from worsening. Investing in renewable energy will be temporarily expensive, but will support our power grids and put a cap on climate threats.

We can and must hold hands with Texas and build a better future…. For y’all.


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