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Is Texas facing a humanitarian crisis?


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9 hours ago, Steve said:

Downtown office buildings and parking structures are lit up throughout the night while other neighborhoods are dark.

 

I admit that I last lived in Austin in 1986, so things have changed there, but ...

 

One of the pictures there mentions "Downtown lit up, while east of I-35 broad sections are dark"...

 

Back when I lived there, Austin was a pretty segregated place.  (They had just lost their last appeal to court-ordered desegregation busing when I arrived in 1978.)  To a considerable albeit declining extent, whites lived west of I-35.  Blacks lived east of I-35 and north of the river.  Hispanics lived east of I-35 and south of the river.  Downtown, of course, is west of I-35.

 

So when downtown is lit up and east of I-35 is blacked out in the winter storm, I see more going on than just patchy utility infrastructure.

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As I understand it, Texas has managed to compound the problem in a number of ways:

  • A power network intentionally disconnected from the national grid purely to avoid federal regulations, is not unable to receive power from elsewhere in the country.
  • Nuclear plants whose water pumps have frozen.
  • Coal plants whose coal has frozen.
  • Natural gas plants whose pipelines are buried just under the surface, where they are prone to freezing.
  • Housing that understandably rarely has heating, and if it does have heating that heating is electrical.
  • A pricing system so broken that prices of nine dollars per kWh is being passed on to customers fortunate enough to have power.
  • Cheaply built tract homes in a deregulated state that have things like uninsulated plumbing running through exterior walls, and attics.

 

Between the cold and the water shortages, I'm starting to wonder if the death toll isn't going to rise sharply.  At minimum, tens of thousands of homes are going to be effectively destroyed by water and plumbing damage.

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1 hour ago, assault said:

But it's all the result of using renewables!

 

This is the line we're getting from politicians desperate to avoid the blame for not having winterized their power system. I know it's Texas, but this isn't the first time they've had a run of cold weather in the winter. And climatologists have warned them that extreme weather events like this are going to become more frequent due to global warming. Other states with average colder winters and more use of renewables are coping just fine, because they spent to prepare their grids to handle it. The great majority of Texas' energy is generated by oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear, and that's what's freezing. That's also a segment of the economy that has enormous political clout in Texas, and a vested interest in denigrating renewable energy.

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9 hours ago, Old Man said:

As I understand it, Texas has managed to compound the problem in a number of ways:

  • A power network intentionally disconnected from the national grid purely to avoid federal regulations, is not unable to receive power from elsewhere in the country.
  • Nuclear plants whose water pumps have frozen.
  • Coal plants whose coal has frozen.
  • Natural gas plants whose pipelines are buried just under the surface, where they are prone to freezing.
  • Housing that understandably rarely has heating, and if it does have heating that heating is electrical.
  • A pricing system so broken that prices of nine dollars per kWh is being passed on to customers fortunate enough to have power.
  • Cheaply built tract homes in a deregulated state that have things like uninsulated plumbing running through exterior walls, and attics.

 

Between the cold and the water shortages, I'm starting to wonder if the death toll isn't going to rise sharply.  At minimum, tens of thousands of homes are going to be effectively destroyed by water and plumbing damage.

 

Also, landlord-tenant law which is barely removed from medieval/slaveholder.  The actual obligations of landlords are minimal there.  The place we lived had its on-the-premises (that is: on the apartment side of the meter) gas lines fail, largely due to pipe rusting.  Though gas is mentioned in the lease, getting the ownership to fix it took a while, and I have the impression that the only reason they did fix it was that they weren't getting new tenants because existing ones were telling people as they were coming into the complex office that there was no gas (so there was no heat, no hot water, and no cooking).

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I've heard a lot of people making a case that those in northern states accustomed to severe winter weather shouldn't criticize Texas for their handling of this emergency.

 

So y'all sit back and let me do it from here in Arkansas, right next to Texas at the same latitude and with the same weather. While there are the expected outages caused by power lines being down and such, we're largely doing okay despite getting more than double our average annual snowfall in the last 3 days. What we don't have are millions of people without power due to a completely isolated power grid, utility companies shutting down power entirely (and suspiciously in minority and low-income neighborhoods) rather than enacting rolling blackouts, and an overly influential Oil industry that demonizes all other forms of power production.

 

Oh, we also don't have a US Senator infamous for opposing federal aid to other states during natural disasters skipping off to sunny Cancun on vacation in the middle of such in his own state.

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It turns out the two top office holders of the 15-member board of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), live out-of-state. Three other ERCOT board members also appear to live thousands of miles from Texas.

 

The board members also nominate each other to the board. Pretty sweet deal, huh?

 

Texas is now looking at legislation to prohibit membership to those who don't live in the state.

 

If you want to blame someone for this mess, I think you should start with them.

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It was also 10 years ago that another *massive* cold spell hit.  Early February, 2011.

https://www.weather.gov/media/epz/Storm_Reports/Cold11/Feb2011ColdWx.pdf

 

The central area of the Texas-New Mexico border rarely gets *really* cold;  the jet stream tends to steer things away.  (The coldest we got over the last few days was, IIRC, about 18 above, and the coldest high temp was 30ish.)  In this cold stretch in 2011, we had a couple days with single-digit HIGH temps, and IIRC the coldest pushed 10 below.  That's insane for us.  And during this, businesses and the university were closed to save heat.  There were rolling blackouts, but never more than a couple hours, IIRC.  And not for more than a few days.

BUT, Texas had it MUCH worse.  Power plants failed and power problems lasted MUCH longer.  And it seems Texas did NOTHING to improve the situation.  

Yes, well, they darn sure BETTER start working on fixes.  Because from what I've heard, this could *easily* happen in any winter.

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Former Texas governor Rick Perry suggests that going days without power is a sacrifice Texans should be willing to make if it means keeping federal regulators out of the state's power grid. In a blog posted on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's website, Perry is quoted responding to the claim that "those watching on the left may see the situation in Texas as an opportunity to expand their top-down, radical proposals."

The former governor was also quoted saying, "Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business. Try not to let whatever the crisis of the day is take your eye off of having a resilient grid that keeps America safe personally, economically, and strategically."

Perhaps it would be better for the former energy secretary of the United States to recognize when it would be a good moment to shut up.  

 

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Quoted on the Book of Face by our very own Darren Watts:

 

"I get it now. Ted and Heidi Cruz wanted their children to be safe, to have basic sanitary services like heat and running water, to leave behind a third-world apocalyptic nightmare for a safer place. Like so many parents before them, they decided to cross the Mexican border.

@julieroginsky"

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On 2/17/2021 at 7:51 PM, Dr.Device said:

 

Even if that's the case, they should shut down their lights to reduce the strain on the grid.

If we're referring to hospitals, they have always been a substatnial user of the power grid -- for excellent reasons. Everything from EKG machines to BP monitors to kitchens, CPAP machines, and the room TVs that help keep a patient's sanity (I should know!), all need to be powered. Not to mention the ventilators in the Covid wards. But off power to the hospital and a lot of people could die.

 

Exterior lighting is very important too. Those signs in front of every hospital showing drivers how to get to the Emergency Department? Those are life-saving in an emergency.

 

 

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