The State of Texas

Not really set in Texas, even if some politicians want you to think otherwise.

Looking at the state of the State of Texas these days, it’s easy to ask “How could this get worse?” but we shouldn’t, because every day it does.

An 11-year-old boy may have frozen to death yesterday — in his own home. Pictures of the water damage are overwhelming before we even start to consider the effort that has to go into mitigation. If it can be found. One man on the news this morning reported calling 14 restoration businesses and getting turned away from every one. Either they were too busy, or his job was too big for them. A woman, sitting in a dark and cold house, still somehow has an electric bill for more than $2,000, with half a month left to go before the bill gets totaled.

And then there is the political response, which might be funny if so many lives weren’t on the line. Or maybe pathetic is the word I want.

This self-contained electrical grid, motivated less by a desire to be self-reliant than as a “screw you” to the feds and their desire to regulate, turns out to have been minutes, if not seconds, away from a total collapse. If you think Texas is in a world of hurt now, consider the world it would have plunged into without any electrical grid at all.

Instead of contemplating that, though, Texans proved themselves to be as human as everyone else — by blaming everyone but themselves. Somehow, in the grand scheme of Texas energy, it’s all Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s fault.

You would think “I can do it mahself” ought to translate into “It is all on me,” but that’s not the way politicians ever see it. So not only were wind turbines, producing about 10 percent of the state’s energy, blamed, politicians far and wide shared pictures purporting to show a helicopter de-icing a turbine, as if that were a bad thing. Well, it was a bad thing, because the photo came from Sweden in 2013, not Texas in 2021 as my representative here in Colorado —

[I would like to take a moment to clarify: I have not voted for the winning candidate in my congressional district since before any of them were named Scott. But I would take either Scott McInnis or Scott Tipton back in a heartbeat if it meant I did not have to keep referring to Lauren Boebert as “my” representative. Even though he probably won’t, I keep hoping Mr. Tipton might want to attempt a comeback in two years.]

— posted on her social media, refusing to take it down even when it was pointed out how incorrect she was. Somewhere in an Alternate Fact Universe it must be true simply because she wants it to be. Just like this disaster in Texas is all the fault of the Green New Deal, legislation that hasn’t even begun formal debate or discussion, never mind enactment, and a young woman from New York who perhaps has never even set foot in Texas.

Never mind that the plants utilizing natural gas also froze. In fact, every type of electrical production within the State of Texas broke down, mostly because winterization, even though mandated by a toothless state directive, never happened. Despite a similar yet not as harrowing event in 2011. If we are going to rake Californians over the burning embers of their wildfires for not raking their forests, surely there ought to be the tiniest bit of blame for Texans failing to weatherproof their utilities.

It is important not to get too sanctimonious here. Particularly when seated in Gunnison, where twice in about a two-month span we got cut off from civilization. Once when the single swipe of one backhoe put us completely out of communication commission, even 911, and back in September when wind and wet snow, which we like to feel is something we can handle, knocked down power lines all over the valley.

So, there but for grace go I, and as the numbers and bodies keep piling up in Texas it is hardly a laughing matter. The Texas energy agency, ERCOT, commissioned a report in 2013 placing a dollar value on lost load. Failure to deliver a megawatt of power, estimated seven-eight years ago, was $6,000 an hour. That means this past Monday and Tuesday, when at least 20,000 megawatts didn’t get delivered, the loss was $120 million an hour, or $2.8 billion. Per day.

An energy management expert from Massachussetts figures that’s a severe undercount, and put the losses at hundreds of billions. By the time you factor in people’s broken homes, and all the health hazards — covid, bad water, lingering cold — this cost, and loss, is going to be profound.

Which is why this go-it-alone-we-don’t-need-no-stinkin’-feds-tellin’-us-what-to-do state is in such a state that the governor was reduced — and I’m sure that’s what it was — to begging for assistance from the feds.

One mayor (I feel semi-responsible, since it’s Colorado City) has already resigned after telling his constituents to buck up: the strong will survive, he said, and the weak will just have to perish. Then he went on the attack about expecting government to lend a hand, even locally: “No one owes you [or] your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim it’s your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout.”

I’m not sure what the local government’s responsibility is, if not to come to the aid of its citizens — other than providing this loser a paycheck, I mean, which is to say: subsidized by the taxpayers. Possibly even looking for a damn handout.

But that would be the difference between me, who sees socialism not as a dirty word but a means of providing for the general welfare in a cost-effective manner, and the governing hierarchy of Texas. Until the problem gets too big for their own bootstraps, and then suddenly that Ocasio-Cortez socialism sounds like just the right note to hit.

Flyin’ Ted Cruz (I’d love to take credit, but someone else thought of it first), who couldn’t even accept responsibility for his own stupid actions (“My daughters made me do it”), along with John Cornyn, who at least had the sense to stay in the country, vote time and again to withhold aid to other states during crises like Superstorm Sandy that did in the Northeast, and the fires of California. Both seem to have no shame with their own hypocrisy when it comes to begging for federal relief in the aftermath of hurricanes like Harvey. And now a storm that so far doesn’t have a name other than Abject Misery.

I will note that unlike “the former guy,” the current president, without hesitation, has shipped personnel and supplies to Texas, and has even been collegial when on the phone with the governor of a state that didn’t vote for him, assuring him assistance is on the way. That’s how I like to think it ought to work, even for dumbasses like the ex-mayor of Colorado City. Well, maybe not him. I’m just not as charitable as I should be.

I don’t expect Texas, as a whole, or politicians in general, to learn much, if anything, from this hubris that could have mostly been avoided had Texas been not so hubristic. But I suppose that’s the same as saying, had Texas not been Texas.

There are plenty of lessons for the taking: sometimes the fast buck isn’t the best buck; doing something about a problem is more effective than placing blame; “me first” may not get you as far as you’d like to think. I’m guessing Texas won’t learn a single one. But wouldn’t it be nice if even a small dose of humility came out of this?

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