At least 26 people died in Texas during a four-day-long winter storm last month. Among the people who lost their lives were an 11-year-old boy who froze to death in his bed, and a grandmother with her grandchildren who died in a house fire while trying to stay warm.
Between February 11 and 17, millions of Texans lost power, heat, and water. Temperatures dropped to levels that hadn’t been felt for decades. Their pipes burst, causing irreparable damage to their homes. Many people were still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in 2017.
If this storm had hit the northern states in the US, it would have hardly even been newsworthy. But Texas is completely unprepared for a storm like this. Texas is known for its insufferably high temperatures. The cold is foreign to this state. Most houses aren’t well-insulated, and the power system is totally unprepared for such severe temperature drops.
This is where the government comes in.
Texas’s power grid is decentralized from the rest of the country. It’s also deregulated. Power companies can compete with each other and the market is based on supply and demand. This isn’t how it works in the majority of the rest of the US. This means that Texas can’t import power from other states when it needs it. It also means that too many families’ power bills increased by thousands of dollars because their suppliers were able to charge them more to keep their power on during the storm.
As of right now, people don’t have to pay these incredibly high bills. Still, the fact that this drastic spike in what families owed during a time of undeniable crisis indicates a failure. Monopolizing on people who are at their most vulnerable is not a sign of a thriving, capitalist, free economy. It’s a symptom of a state (and a country) that cares more about tired principles and fantasies of freedom than the people it houses within its borders.
Texans have consistently elected Republican representatives, so these are the people who have been in charge of the state’s deregulated power system and economy. Despite this, Texas’s Governor Greg Abbott blamed green energy and the so-called “Green New Deal” which doesn’t really exist in Texas. Abbott blamed frozen wind turbines and progressive ideologies for the state’s own unpreparedness during this disaster.
“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Abbott said on Fox News on February 17. He said it, because wind and solar energy account for 10% of Texas’ energy, and some of them failed, that was the reason Texas saw such devastation. He said that this was the reason Texas needs fossil fuels.
Abbott is right that clean energy did fail in many circumstances. But Abbott’s energy department contradicted him. They clarified that the loss of power, heat and water came from Texas’ failure to winterize their power system. This includes a failure to winterize all fossil fuel systems.
The main issue is that during a time of great need and state-wide suffering, the government made it an ideological fight. Instead of helping those in need and addressing what really went wrong. Texas’ representatives touted their right-wing perspectives, spouted anti-climate change rhetoric, and skirted blame for something that decades of Republican leadership have led to. Climate change is real, and this storm is probably a result of it! To ignore a need to adjust infrastructure because of a desire to prove your political party is right is not just ignorant, it is dangerous and anti-American.
There are still people trying to recover from this storm. Hopefully, in the future, America will view disasters as a tragedy that needs fixing, instead of a political platform.