Editorial: Gov. Abbott’s ‘wind turbine’ excuse is full of hot air, while Texans are dying
Houston Chronicle Editorial Board February 17, 2021
Texans shivering in the dark are facing many shortages right now — lights, heat, tap water, gasoline — but the most vexing deficit is a critical shortage of leadership in Austin.
It’s an approach far too common among Texas governors. And once again, it’s costing lives. The death toll in this devastating storm that has left millions without power is climbing, with more than a dozen weather-related deaths reported in the Houston area alone.
You’d think the deep misery of millions of Texans — never mind the global embarrassment of seeing the nation’s energy capital on its knees — would have forced Abbott to face up to the reality of the state he leads. But instead, he chose to play more games — political games. On Tuesday, he was on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, blaming the energy grid’s collapse on frozen wind turbines.
This disaster has nothing to do with the Green New Deal. Wind makes up a tiny fraction of the state’s energy grid this time of year. The vast majority of power sources knocked off line were natural gas and coal, largely because those facilities weren’t properly weatherized.
The real problem, as Abbott knows, has to do with Texas’ loosely regulated grid and a system of energy delivery that tries to maximize profits and keep consumer prices cheap by failing to insure against a crisis like this one.
Abbott has made reforming the state’s power grid manager, a non-profit called ERCOT, a legislative priority and House Speaker Dade Phelan called on two key committees to meet jointly next week to “understand what went wrong.” These are important next steps — but only if the lawmakers and the governor demand real reform, and actually bother to find out what is really broken.
Another thing Abbott forgot to tell Hannity? Texas officials knew the grid was vulnerable to collapse and failed to act.
For real reform to happen, leaders like Abbott will have to recognize that the grand bargain Texas proudly offers to industries of all kinds — bring your companies here and we’ll offer low taxes, low costs and scant regulation — is one that needs serious rethinking. The benefits Texas receives from all those new jobs are big, but they do not come without costs. It’s just that those costs are usually harder to count — until something like this week happens.