With a dispatch from San Antonio, Adam Sewrer observes numerous people died because Texas Republicans have become entirely concerned with culture war bullshit and narrowly protecting the interests of their most powerful donors:
The crisis in Texas was preceded by more than a decade of Republican control of state government, as politicians focused on culture-war grievances rather than the nuts and bolts of governance. After the near collapse of the power grid exposed its failures, the state’s political leadership attempted to cover for those failures by doubling down on those same grievances.
None of this had to happen. In the dry language of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Texas, which maintains its own grid to avoid federal regulation, was hit with a cold-weather event “unusually severe in terms of temperature, wind, and duration.” This forced the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, to resort to “system-wide rolling blackouts to prevent more widespread customer outages.” Unfortunately, “generators and natural gas producers suffered severe losses of capacity despite having received accurate forecasts of the storm.” ERCOT had reserves in anticipation of the storm, but those “reserves proved insufficient” once the cold hit. Many generators had “failed to adequately apply and institutionalize knowledge and recommendations from previous severe winter weather events, especially as to winterization of generation and plant auxiliary equipment.”
That description of the cascading failures of Texas’s power grid is not from the past week. It is actually taken from a 2011 report from FERC, investigating an outage during a prior cold snap. The report recommended that “all entities responsible for the reliability of the bulk power system in the Southwest prepare for the winter season with the same sense of urgency and priority as they prepare for the summer peak season.”
Texas officials didn’t feel like doing all that. As The Texas Tribune reports, the state legislature failed to act. Instead of imposing new regulations or mandates, ERCOT issued a set of voluntary “best practices.” Actually winterizing the entire system would have been expensive. The energy companies didn’t want to spend money they did not have to spend, and the politicians whose campaigns they finance didn’t want to make them do it either.
They were warned about the disastrous outcomes that would happen again if they didn’t act, they didn’t act, and they happened. And the cycle will continue because governing is just not what Republican legislators and executives are interested in:
The elevation of this symbolic politics over competence has had a devastating effect on actual governance in Texas, a state that has been under Republican control since the 1990s. If politicians can win and exercise power simply through expressions of contempt for others, then they have no need to govern well, as the tenure of Texas Governor Greg Abbott makes abundantly clear. Filing expensive lawsuits that kick people off Medicaid in order to stick it to Barack Obama, signing laws defending Chick-fil-A, allowing state-funded adoption agencies to refuse services to same-sex couples—this is the stuff that gets you on Fox News, not attending to prosaic duties such as making sure your state’s utilities will function properly under emergency conditions.
Abbott and other Texas Republicans have attempted to blame the power failures on the state’s reliance on wind power, even though wind provides a smaller percentage of energy for the state than natural gas, and natural-gas generators were no less incapacitated by the cold than wind turbines were. Abbott went on Fox News to announce that the storm “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.”
Theoretically, this massive failure should accelerate Texas’s turn to purple, but…