Some thoughts from a survivor of the Texas winter storm crisis

The temperatures in Texas are on the rise and that’s an excellent thing. It’s been a very tough week in the Lone Star State, harrowing, really, and the fall-out from the winter storm isn’t over. It’s really only just beginning.

There is plenty of blame to go around and lots of finger-pointing, as always happens in a crisis situation. Was the power outage caused by the state’s renewable energy sources? The traditional energy sources of natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy? It’s all of those sources. Everything failed at the same time. The very rare extreme winter storm caught Texas unable to keep up with energy demands. Factors of the mass failure include frozen wind turbines, limited gas supplies, low gas pressure, and frozen instrumentation. 185 generating units have tripped offline. 46,000 megawatts of potential power can’t be generated right now, according to the latest reports this morning as I write this. Here’s a breakdown of that power – 61% of thermal forces (natural gas, coal, nuclear) and 39% of renewable energy (solar and wind).

A big problem is the lack of winterization of the equipment. You may have seen pictures of frozen wind turbines. Another problem is the lack of an energy reserve to handle the high demands of extreme temperatures. In 2011 the state experienced a devastating winter storm. After that, the state legislature decided to not hold hearings on some bills being presented for action to avoid problems in the future. A report was written of recommended measures to be taken but apparently, those were never acted on.

Texas uses all forms of energy. It is the fifth-largest wind energy provider in the world. The state is highly diversified in energy. Texas is a leader in large states with renewable energy production. The argument now is whether or not it’s a capacity issue or if capacity was knocked out due to an extraordinary event. In other words, an argument can be made that Texas had plenty of energy available but due to a freakish (for Texas) storm, everything shut down at about the same time, like natural gas lines freezing. The wind turbines are mostly for summer production needs, to supply power for the demands of air-conditioning.

Spare me the cries from the Green New Deal zealots. AOC decided to weigh in with her hot take on why Texas was suffering – if only the state went with more renewable energy. The truth is, though, as Lt. Gov. Patrick pointed out recently, Texas has power again today because of fossil fuels and clean-burning coal and nuclear power, not renewable energy. In winter, the wind doesn’t blow enough and the sun doesn’t shine enough for wind turbines and solar energy to provide enough energy for the state. According to Patrick, officials were counting on 11 percent, maybe up to 14 percent of energy coming from the wind turbines, but that number was 2 percent because the turbines froze. Again, Texas uses all sources of energy. The state is on its own power grid, separate from other states.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) operates the electric grid and manages the deregulated market for 75 percent of the state. CEO Bill Magness and others are under fire, as many lawmakers are asking for their resignations. Political arguments are hot and heavy in the state. That’s where the finger-pointing comes in. The state legislators blame ERCOT. ERCOT blames the state legislators. Technically, ERCOT is not a state agency. The first lawsuit against ERCOT was filed yesterday. The question is, can ERCOT be sued?

Whether ERCOT, a nonprofit corporation that functions somewhat like a government agency, can be successfully sued is likely to be a legal issue.

Five years ago a Dallas energy company, Panda Power, sued the grid operator, alleging it distorted the state’s power needs to encourage new plant development. The estimates led Panda to invest in excess capacity that forced it to sell power at lower prices. ERCOT argued it needed the sovereign immunity shield because big claims can drive up costs for distributors and boost electricity prices. An appeals court sided with ERCOT, saying it was protected by sovereign immunity. The state supreme court has agreed to review the decision.

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Friday evening that his office is filing Civil Investigative Demands for ERCOT and power providers.

“While Texans pulled together to get their communities through this disaster, they were largely left in the dark,” Paxton said in the release. “We will get to the bottom of this power failure and I will tirelessly pursue justice for Texans.”

In addition to ERCOT, the 11 other power companies that Paxton issued civil investigative demands to were: AEP Texas, Calpine Corporation, CenterPoint Energy Services, Griddy Energy, La Frontera Holdings, Luminant Generation Company, NRG Texas Power, Oncor Electric Delivery Company, Panda Sherman Power, Temple Generation I and the Texas-New Mexico Power Company.

The civil investigative demands require these 12 companies to produce data and documents related to the winter weather disaster by March 15.

My home lost power, heat, and internet service at 2:30 a.m. Monday morning. Our water was shut off not long after that. We didn’t have power, heat, and internet service restored until Thursday night. Water came back on Friday morning. Our lives literally revolved around just trying to stay warm. It was the most horrible almost five days I can remember. We finally had a hot meal Thursday afternoon when my husband was able to get out and found a nearby Chinese restaurant open. As he picked up the food order, the lady at the counter asked if he’d like a styrofoam cup of hot water to have tea at home. That one gesture provided the most comfort of the entire ordeal – I could hold that cup and my hands warmed up a bit. I am still in recovery mode. We were in a dire situation but we survived, some didn’t.

Do I care that Senator Ted Cruz went to Cancun? No, I don’t. Don’t get me wrong – it was a bone-headed thing to do and throwing his daughters under the bus was ridiculous. I would suggest that Heidi Cruz get a better group of friends. Apparently, one of them that was a part of her group text making arrangements for the trip leaked it to the New York Times. Cruz is likely going to run for president again in 2024 and he has a lot of work to do now. He’s going to have to help distribute a lot of food and water to those in need, as well as help Senator Cornyn work with the feds to send support to Texas. Optics are everything in politics.

One last thing – those who rejoiced in the suffering of Texans this week are worthless garbage human beings. As we try to stay warm to survive the freezing temperatures, Chuck Todd on NBC “joked” that maybe now Texans will wear face masks because they can provide warmth. And Bette Midler said the storm is “payback” for electing Senators Cornyn and Cruz. Frankly, maybe being isolated from news all week was a blessing. It was miserable to be out of the loop for a news junkie like me but it no doubt spared me a lot of anger. Believe me, all Texas residents have enough of that right now.