The blackouts that gripped parts of Texas for days as temperatures dipped to record lows last month were stunning for a state that prides itself on its diverse and abundant energy supplies. Texas is the country’s largest oil producer, largest lignite coal producer, largest natural gas producer, and largest wind energy producer.
Yet despite its bountiful resources, every electricity source — natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar — fell short just as Texans needed to warm up the most.
Now that Texas has thawed out after an icy freeze left more than 4 million people in the cold and dark, heads are rolling.
This week, Texas Public Utility Commissioner Shelly Botkin resigned, leaving just one commissioner of the three-member group remaining. This follows a wave of resignations at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the group that oversees the state’s power grid.
It’s not yet clear how many Texans died amid the cold, but several people died after they lost power, including an 11-year-old boy. Others died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they burned fuel indoors or ran their cars in desperate attempts to stay warm. Millions lost drinking water for days.
The blackouts cost the state economy upward of $130 billion in damages and losses, and some people who did have power saw their bills spike by thousands of dollars. Grid operators say that the situation could actually have been a lot worse, with the system minutes away from a months-long blackout.
Texas politicians have not earned much sympathy from the ordeal. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz derided California’s “failed energy policies” when the Golden State suffered blackouts last year. Gov. Greg Abbott went on television to erroneously link the power outages to the Green New Deal. Other Texas politicos blamed iced-up wind turbines for the electricity shortfall when the majority of the power losses were from natural gas.
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