How Corporate Abuse is Fueling the Texas Power Crisis

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 This piece on the Texas power crisis originally ran in our monthly Cancel Corporate Abuse newsletter. You can sign up to receive these regular updates here

Texas is experiencing an unprecedented power crisis, with much of the state’s low-income and Black and Brown communities currently living without electricity, water, and other basic human needs.

The disaster in Texas is what happens when a government sits so deeply in the pockets of Big Oil that it cannot find its way out of a crisis. An elected official’s first priority at this moment should be finding ways to support and protect the people they are sworn to serve. Instead, we watched Sen. Ted Cruz get on a flight to Mexico, as other elected officials ran to Fox News to place blame on renewable resources, and millions of Texans suffered without power, water, or heat.  

This is a crisis — a worst-case scenario of what happens when your elected officials are bought and sold by Big Oil. It’s also another form of corporate abuse

So what happened?

Texas is the only state in the entire country with a separate energy grid. Because of this, Texas cannot borrow energy from neighboring states when crises like these happen.  

The Texas government just hasn’t prepared its current energy infrastructure for extreme winter weather events. 

When a “once in a lifetime” storm like this hits, the people affected first and worst are often economically disenfranchised and Black and Brown communities. The people on the frontlines of the climate crisis will continue to get hit hardest as we experience more and more extreme weather events.

Take it to the tweets 

Many Republican officials in Texas shared pictures of frozen wind turbines and shifted blame from fossil fuel power to wind power. For instance, Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw tweeted: 

Dan Crenshaw screenshot of tweet: This is what happens when you force the grid to rely in part on wind as a power source. When weather conditions get as bad as they did this week, intermittent renewable energy like wind isn't there when you need it.

Dan Crenshaw screenshot of a tweet: Bottom line: Thank God for baseload energy made up of fossil fuels. Had our grid been more reliant on the wind turbines that froze, the outages would have been much worse. But wind power accounts for just 10 percent of the power generated in Texas in the winter. The overwhelming majority of the energy grid in Texas is powered by fossil fuels. The majority of the power loss to the grid comes from a shutdown of thermal power plants, predominantly those relying on natural gas, rather than frozen wind turbines. Extreme weather doesn’t necessarily undermine wind power–there are wind turbines in Antarctica, a much colder climate than Texas.  

Like the fossil fuel infrastructure, the turbines that froze in Texas were not winterized. But they account for so much less of the grid power than fossil fuels do. 

Corporate power  

Many have been quick to point out that the same politicians and pundits spreading disinformation about renewable energy are on Big Oil’s bankroll. Texas politicians Crenshaw, Cruz, and Cornyn received donations from at least 30 different fossil fuel companies in the last year. Crenshaw’s first response to this crisis was to demonize renewable energy, which isn’t surprising considering that the oil and gas industry donated almost half a million dollars to his campaign in the last year alone. 

When corporations dangle political donations like carrots on a stick, politicians dance, and the people suffer for it. We’re seeing several crises converge: Outdated infrastructure, a climate crisis-induced extreme weather event, and an industry with the political influence to ensure that the government prioritizes its interests over the public interest.

Molly Taft of Gizmodo summarized it well: “The longer the industry keeps the political system captured and the more these people lie, the more likely it is we’ll see even more death and chaos ahead.

We encourage you to share these resources with your own networks, including lists of warming centers, mutual aid networks, and other resources for the folks in Texas affected by this crisis

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