So by the time you read this, it will have been almost a week since the Great Texas Ice Storm of 2021 came to its end. In a sense, then, it is old news. Already, Texas is back to its usual weather. (I’m writing this on 24 Feb at about 11 am. It is 73 degrees, already, and the expected high for the day is 79. A week ago, it was 5 degrees. There is something astonishing in that.)
The question, though, is what effect this event…I think of it as THE event…will have on Texas as a whole, and by extension on the rest of America. Texas is a big place, remember, and where it goes much of the nation will follow. Like California and New York City before it, the Lone Star State is a bellwether (or a Judas Goat, depending on your biases) for the other 49.
Now, recently, Texas was the poster child for rugged individualism and unrestrained free enterprise. It wasn’t always that way. For a very long time, it was a Blue state (think LBJ and Ann Richards), but, then, sort of starting with Reagan, the state went Right. Thus, by the 1990s, it was among the Reddest of Red States.
What that led to, though, was that libertarianism (of a sort, anyway) was tried on a mass level here. And don’t get me wrong. That can work, in some places and in some situations.
After The Ice Age
But not all. Thus, Texas created a power grid that was unconnected to the rest of the nation (just in case, of course, Texas ever got around to succeeding from the Union), and which was largely unregulated. It was overseen by something called The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which was a not-for—profit meant to oversee the ways that power was generated and distributed in the state. In practice, this meant that that ERCOT protected investors in the companies which produce energy, while ignoring the customers of those companies.
And, in due time, a crisis arrived — that is, the Ice Storm.
I ought to stress here, by the way, that the energy companies did their best. They kept the power on wherever they could and as best they could. And we ought to cut them a little slack because the Ice Storm was a Black Swan event. The Texas power grid was meant to deal with too much heat during the summer, and not with too much cold in the winter.
But, because these companies had been largely unregulated, and because they were owned by individuals and corporations interested in short term profits, they had not prepared (in many cases, had not been allowed to prepare) for an event as unexpected, and as genuinely deadly, as the Ice Storm.
And Texans are realizing this. They are beginning to look hard at a system that had all the right buzz words…individualism, de-regulation, liberty…but which rewarded the rich and the powerful (many, like several of the ERCOT directors, from out of state) while punishing everyone else.
It is, after all, very difficult to forgive Ted Cruz, who whisked himself and his family off to Cancun (with, by the way, a police escort to the airport), while the rest of us shivered in the dark. It is also hard to forgive our Attorney General, Ken Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, who similarly left Texas for sunny, storm-free Utah. (In theory on business, but in practice….?) And then there’s Rick Perry, our once governor and presidential candidate, who announced that Texans would be (or at least should be) willing to freeze in the dark, so long as it kept our power grid unregulated and free from the from the clutches of Federal bureaucrats.
Even though, particularly though, that “freedom” meant that people all over the state were dying in the dark—including an 11 year old boy who froze to death in an unheated mobile home.
And thus, like Moloch, the System, and those who benefitted from it, demanded child sacrifice.
I’m starting to hear… in conversations, here and there…a new awareness of that among Texans. I hear increasing fury. I hear the beginnings of sorrow, and rage…
Will things change? Maybe not. At least not at first. The people who put Ted Cruz and Rick Perry into office, and who continued to fly Trump flags even as ice slashed down from heaven, will be hard pressed to change their ways.
In the end…in the long run…
I think, too, that the child on the alter of deregulation, along with so many others who died or suffered in the ice.
Until next time…
Onward and Upward