I’ve been a Texas resident my entire life and what’s happening right now is not normal. Some towns, including where I’m from, experienced snow in January unlike it had it years. Just a little over a month later it happened again. This time, however, thousands of Texans have been left without power for days on end, and now drinking water is becoming a scarcity. My college town just got back regular power after three days of it going in and out, and we’re crossing our fingers it lasts.
So what is causing this insane power outage? It’s not wind turbines. Wind power only makes up approximately 7% of the state’s energy, anyway. According to the New York Times, “The main problem was frigid temperatures that stalled natural gas production, which is responsible for the majority of Texas’ power supply.” The state’s natural gas infrastructure is not prepared for the low temperatures, and their failure can largely be blamed for what is happening. Many conservatives like Governor Greg Abbott are placing the blame on green energy sources without any truth to their statements.
The Texas Tribune specifically states the power outage is a result of two things: the decision to not require equipment upgrades to better withstand extreme winter temperatures, as well as the choice to operate mostly isolated from other grids in the United States. Texas has a privatized power grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), to avoid federal regulation. When the state was in a similar power outage in 2011, it received aid from Mexico by importing power from the country. Now, millions in north Mexico are without power from the Texas storm freezing natural gas pipelines.
Of the half a million Texas homes without power, many citizens are having to relocate to warming centers and to the homes of friends and family. An example of a Texan who traveled to find warmth is Senator Ted Cruz, who’s vacationing in Cancun, Mexico. You may assume he left before the chaos ensued, but you’d be wrong. It’s comparable to when Austin mayor Steve Adler traveled to Cabo after telling Austinites to stay home to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The effects of the ongoing power outage is staggering. Texas’s infrastructure is not built to deal with climate change and they need to invest in renewable energy for a plethora of reasons. 90% of the plants that failed have been oil, gas, and coal plants. There have been 34 deaths, 20 of them being from Texas. ERCOT officials say Texas was minutes away from “catastrophic monthslong blackouts.”
In conclusion, Texas needs help and there are ways we can do so.
If you’re a Texas resident, the Austin-American Statesman has a guide on how to conserve power here.
If you need to find a warming center, call 512-305-4233.