Texans have been here before. From the pandemic, hurricanes and now winter storms across the state of Texas, the local and state government has mishandled another situation. Quite honestly, though, are we even surprised? It is reported that roughly 2 million Texans have been without electricity in their households. Lines to grocery stores have been wrapped around buildings and seem more chaotic than in March 2020, when we were officially on lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic.
In the past few days, many UTSA students have been without electricity and running water, both of which are essential to everyday life. Students have taken to social media to document many of their thermostats showing frigid temperatures. UTSA has also since opted to cancel all in-person and online class meetings until Friday, Feb. 19, due to inclement weather. The University opened the Main Building, recreational center and the JPL to provide students with a safe and warm place to reside amidst the chaos. As UTSA tried to maintain a sense of community, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot has showcased poor leadership to Texans that has raised many questions and concerns about steps moving forward.
Abbott took to Twitter to discuss one Texan’s way to protect their outside water faucet from freezing using a Whataburger cup. The tweet, albeit meant to be lighthearted, can be viewed as insensitive as many Texans have dealt with busted pipes resulting in flooded homes. Rather than attempting to take some of the heat for the unfortunate outcome, Abbot has since deflected most of that blame to electricity resource companies. Although the full extent of possible damages from the winter storm is difficult to predict, Gov. Abbot failed Texans with his lack of preparedness.
As mentioned earlier, some local Texas governments are also at fault and even inconsiderate of the conditions many Texans are enduring. Tim Boyd, mayor of Colorado City, Texas, recently stepped down after receiving backlash about comments he made in a private Facebook group. Boyd was quoted as saying, “No one owes you [or] your family anything, I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!” which sent shockwaves through local and national media outlets. Although not all government leadership shared the same sentiment as Boyd, the lack of proactive initiative spoke volumes to communities in Texas. We should examine if we want leaders that lack empathy to continue to represent our communities and us.
While local and state governments deserve plenty of blame, ERCOT’s failures should not be dismissed. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is a nonprofit organization that manages the power grid for the state of Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas early morning of Monday, Feb. 15, planned to implement rolling power outages that would help conserve energy. However, many Texans from that point on were left with no electricity and few resources in the following days. It is plausible to question if the method of rolling blackouts was followed as photos surfaced on Twitter showing major city skylines lit up meanwhile local neighborhoods were dark. Furthermore, high-income family neighborhoods seemed to not have much disruption in electricity. On the contrary, low and middle-class families, many of which were minority communities, experienced long power outages.
The infrastructure in place to support Texans during the winter storm failed miserably and deserves to be examined. Conservatives have taken to social media and media outlets to blame renewable resources as the culprits of lack of energy resources. However, natural gas accounted for 30 gigawatts of loss of thermal energy; meanwhile, 16 gigawatts of wind renewable were reported to be offline. ERCOT’s projected peak demand of 57 gigawatts and upon the winter storm arriving were unable to accommodate for a massive 69 gigawatts of energy output. Nonetheless, it was reported even with natural gas pipes freezing over, proper upgrades to infrastructure would have handled the winter storm much better. Upgrading the natural gas pipes to become better insulated to combat freezing temperatures would have been a start. Yet, Texas’ less regulated power grid than the United States and insufficient tune-ups cost many their homes and some their lives.
No matter where you want to directly place the blame, Texas’ leadership as a whole deserves to be criticized for lack of initiative. Time and time again, Texans have had to seemingly guide themselves during adversity while leaders wait until after the fact to take action. Unfortunately, it has come at the cost of some losing their lives and many without basic necessities. We must also ask ourselves how many times will we let our ‘leaders’ fail us and how we can hold them accountable. Within the coming year, elections will start up once again after another failed disaster. Texans should look more thoroughly at candidate plans. Examine and vote like your life depends on it because, as we recently saw, we can and will be failed again if we don’t take a stand.