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People wait in a long line to buy groceries at H-E-B in Austin, Texas, during an extreme cold snap and widespread power outage on Tuesday Feb. 16, 2021. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Texas didn't expect to be in the cross-hairs of the climate change controversy. But the Arctic is warming more than twice as quickly as the rest of the planet and can't tell north from south. The "Arctic amplification" hit Texans with a polar jet stream that wandered southward and stayed. Unfortunately, the state is better equipped for grand standing than governing through crises with its legislature convening only once every two years for five months.

There are three power grids across the country: one in the East and one in the West. And then there's Texas, which is adamant about not following federal guidelines. That's government intrusion! Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was also Donald Trump's Secretary of Energy, claims that Texans would willingly put up with even more disastrous days to avoid the federal government interfering.

But while Texas officials protested against federal aid to New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, there's been no outcry against federal aid to their own state.

The go-it-alone state couldn't borrow energy from other power grids, intensifying the mess and infuriating its citizens. Trying to squash the inevitable public anger, one city mayor tried to shut down complaints: "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 d--- handout!" The mayor resigned shortly after the fierce push-back. Texans didn't tolerate being labeled as lazy and the products of bad parenting.

They were unconvinced by the claims of their energy leaders that the freezing temperatures vastly outpaced their ability to provide power. Gov. Greg Abbott, who receives millions of dollars from oil and gas companies, backed down from blaming the meltdown on renewable energy like wind turbines. Wind accounts for only a small percentage of Texas' winter energy. Abbott later acknowledged that numerous oil, gas and nuclear energy sites also froze. He went easy on oil and gas, but blasted the state-controlled public utility, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Several ERCOT board members resigned. Maybe they didn't want to explain why Texas pipelines, diesel engines and a nuclear reactor froze when well-engineered turbines work just fine in Alaska and Antarctica. And they probably didn't want to be held responsible for the lack of investment in winterizing after warnings during a 2011 blackout.

We've certainly not heard much appreciation for Sen. Ted Cruz's jumping ship to Mexico. And his photo-op handing out water bottles isn't helping the nasty taste created by "Cancun Cruz". Several other key leaders are also in hot water for leaving, especially as the multi-thousand dollar power bills come rolling in.

Could we be seeing a cultural shift? One that might include climate change? The GOP has relied for years on climate change denial and removing regulations from energy companies to appeal to their base. And their donors. Will the Texas mess finally prompt a national rethink of energy?

Don't hold your breath. Fossil fuel industries are seriously pushing back. They've introduced legislation in Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota and Montana that labels them "critical infrastructure." The bills include draconian punishment of climate protesters.

Enough already. Fortunately, General Motors plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. Virginia-based Dominion Energy, Xcel Energy in Colorado and New Jersey's Public Service Enterprise Group are going in that direction by 2050. Help the Texas deep freeze push more companies to follow suit. Make calls. Write letters. Show that it's the people's will not to freeze to death.

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah @diversityreport.com.

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Deborah Levine / Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter

 

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