The Texas grid failure that’s left millions struggling without power in freezing conditions has ignited a feud between Democrats and the GOP over Republicans’ decades-long oversight of the energy industry and prompted calls for a system more resilient to extreme weather conditions, CNBC writes.
Texas has avoided federal regulation by establishing its own power grid that’s nearly cut off from the rest of the country — an isolated system that conservatives in power have long praised.
But the system collapsed this week from a surge in energy demand coupled with frozen utility plants during a brutal winter storm, which then increased energy prices and triggered the state’s worst blackouts in decades.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-TX, blamed Texas Republican leaders for prioritizing “stupid culture wars,” like efforts to make Texas a gun “sanctuary state,” rather than protecting residents from extreme weather events made worse by climate change.
“So much of this was avoidable,” O’Rourke said this week on an interview with MSNBC. “Going back to the deregulation of our electricity grid in Texas, which has created an incentive to actually not weatherize or protect against these events.”
“The energy capital of North America cannot provide enough energy to warm and power people’s homes,” O’Rourke continued. “We are nearing a failed state in Texas. And it has nothing to do with God or natural disasters. It has everything to do with those in positions of public trust who have failed us.”
The outages led to major public criticism of the legislators and state agencies over their apparent failure to heed warnings about the grid’s inability to handle extreme weather conditions. Energy experts said the collapse was due in part to the state’s decision to not require equipment upgrades for a more resilient system.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she expects the House Energy and Commerce Committee to probe the energy problems in Texas.
Jennifer Granholm, President Joe Biden’s nominee for energy secretary, said the U.S. must upgrade its grid infrastructure as soon as possible. “One thing is certain: America’s electricity grid is simply not able to handle extreme weather events,” she wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.
Though the GOP has overseen the state’s energy sector for decades, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, along with other conservative state leaders, have falsely blamed the outages on renewable energy sources like wind and solar, which comprise only a small fraction of the state’s energy.
Abbott claimed in a Fox news interview this week that dependence on wind and solar power “thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power in a statewide basis,” an argument which was contradicted by his own energy department.