Who’s Actually To Blame For the Texas Power Disaster?
With millions of Texans still without power in the wake of a winter storm and frigid temperatures, everyone is looking for someone to blame. From a report, shared by a reader: Many Democrats are blaming Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for failing to adequately prepare for the storm. Many conservatives are blaming the environmental movement — insisting that frozen wind turbines show the limits of alternative energy sources. (This is a gross exaggeration.) But the primary fall guy is the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), an independent organization that operates Texas’ power grid. “This was a total failure by ERCOT,” said Abbott on Tuesday. “These are the experts. These are engineers in the power industry. These aren’t bureaucrats or whatever the case may be. These are specialists, and government has to rely upon on these specialists to be able to deliver in these types of situations.” The story, as you might guess, is actually slightly more complicated than that. It’s rooted in Texans’ views of their state as a quasi-independent country — and a desire to have as little federal interference in their lives as possible. Yes, there are politics at the root of this. “Texas’ secessionist inclinations have at least one modern outlet: the electric grid,” wrote the Texas Tribune back in 2011.

To understand what is happening right now in Texas — and who’s to blame — you have to go back to 1935, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Federal Power Act, which governed electricity sharing and sales between the states. Basically, it allowed the federal government to regulate states who brought power in from outside their state lines. Texas, never a fan of federal intrusion, set up its own power grid system — split between northern and southern Texas — to avoid any federal involvement. That led eventually to the formation of ERCOT in 1970 and this strange fact: There are three power grids in the United States — the eastern power grid, the western power grid and, well, Texas. Yes, you read that right. Texas has its own power grid. Because it is Texas. And while being independent from the yoke of federal regulation has always been a point of pride for Texas, the limits of that strategy are being realized now. See, because Texas — or at least 90% of the state — is controlled by ERCOT, they can’t simply borrow power from either the eastern or western power grids. That’s never been a problem before because Texas has always been able to generate more power than its citizens need. But the reality is that Texas is an electricity island, which isn’t a problem until the lights go out, and you don’t have enough power in the state to turn them back on. Now, there’s no question that ERCOT bears some blame here, too.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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