Amy Goodman

Alone Star State

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Texas, the proud, independent Lone Star State, is suffering a humanitarian catastrophe caused by its shortsighted denial of the climate crisis and lack of federal regulation. Warming air over the Arctic is the likely reason that the polar vortex, a huge mass of cold air over the North Pole, moved south, plunging Texas and surrounding states into an unprecedented deep freeze. Millions of people have been left for days without power, water and heat, and nearly 40 people have died. A second winter storm, dubbed Viola, hit the state as it reeled from the vortex. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott falsely blamed the state’s electrical grid failure on renewable energy: “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” he told Fox News. Even Abbot’s own energy department refuted his claims.

The freezing air blanketing the region did shut down about half of Texas’ wind turbines, but still, that accounted for only 13 percent of the overall power loss. The larger cause of the catastrophe was frozen fossil fuel infrastructure, disabling coal, oil, fracked gas facilities and even nuclear power generation. Gov. Abbott’s lies may warm the hearts of his corporate fossil fuel donors, but they won’t help the millions of Texans struggling to survive in the freezing cold, and they won’t protect Texas from future extreme weather events that are sure to follow.

Texas has itself largely to blame for the severity of its power grid’s failure. Most of the continental United States draws power from two main electrical grids, one in the east and the other in the west. Texas, however, operates its own, isolated grid, often described as an “island.” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Federal Power Commission in 1935, as part of the New Deal, to regulate interstate electricity. Texas power companies rebelled, and decided to go it alone, keeping the state’s grid entirely in-state. The system developed over the decades into ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

As the largest state by area in the lower 48, and with significant oil, gas and coal within its borders, and plenty of sun and wind, Texas is perhaps better positioned than any other state to attempt energy independence. But the devil is in the details. ERCOT touts its freedom from federal regulation and devotion to the free market for its success over the decades. Texas energy officials endlessly brag about ERCOT’s ability to power all of the state’s air conditioners during its famously hot summers. But there has never been any incentive for power producers to spend money winterizing their facilities. As this week’s arctic cold shut down power plants across the state, Texas couldn’t draw electricity from out-of-state sources, creating a cascade of calamities, disproportionately hitting low-income communities and communities of color.

“We’re now the Alone Star State,” professor Robert Bullard, known as the “father of environmental justice,” said on the Democracy Now! news hour from Houston, soon after his power had been restored. “The impact of this storm is more than just power outages and inconveniences for those communities that historically have been impacted by energy insecurity and energy poverty.”

Cities and towns across Texas are issuing boil notices as water treatment plants go offline. But many families can’t boil water without electricity. Stories are surfacing of people breaking apart furniture to burn for heat. “We are a failed state right now,” Bullard added. “People are suffering right now and hurting with no power, no money, no water, no form of transportation to get to the grocery store to get water where there is no bottled water or food ... the idea of Texas not being part of the union has really been a textbook example of how not to do it.”

This is happening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are flocking to crowded, indoor warming centers, risking possible exposure to the coronavirus in search of heat. Meanwhile, the already stressed vaccine distribution networks have been shut down, and vaccination centers shuttered. It is unclear how many doses of the refrigeration-dependent vaccines will have to be tossed out because of Texas’ failed independent power grid.

Texas is also the nation’s biggest jailer, where prisoners are being especially hard hit. Lack of heat and running water, and food shortages are worsening already desperate conditions.

Texas’ elected leaders, from Gov. Greg Abbot and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to attorney general Ken Paxton, all Republicans, are also all committed climate change deniers. As the thaw comes slowly to Texas, and the heat, lights and water turn back on, Texans will have to decide whether to join the global community fighting human-caused climate disruption or to insist on going it alone, come hell or high water.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,400 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan and David Goodman, of the New York Times best-seller “Democracy Now!: 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America.”
   © 2021 Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
   Distributed by King Features Syndicate

  

Past Columns
Ban Assault Weapons Now

March 31, 2021

End the filibuster

March 24, 2021

Confederate Monuments

March 10, 2021

Shut down DAPL

February 3, 2021

When the wall becomes a door

January 27, 2021

Trump’s insurrection

January 13, 2021

Pardons and Pentobarbital

December 9, 2020

Food for the hungry

December 2, 2020

Lost Causes

November 18, 2020

Infection Election

October 21, 2020

Amoral Universe

September 2, 2020

COVID Care

August 12, 2020

Tests, not troops

July 29, 2020

Defund the Police

June 17, 2020

Racism in America

June 2, 2020

Live and Let Die

May 13, 2020

Monday
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Tuesday
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11:00am

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10:00am

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10:00am

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11:00am

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11:00am

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11:00am

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11:00am

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11:00am

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11:00am

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Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Origins and Evolutions Exhibit

11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

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12:00pm

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12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

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An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…