Riding the Storm Out

With millions of Texans reeling in the wake of the “Texas Freeze,” where do we go from here when it comes to energy? There are those unabashedly saying this is the time for renewable energy, while there are those claiming the freeze vindicates fossil fuels. In all reality, this is not a “renewable vs fossil fuels” debate (we need both but that is for another time) insomuch as it is concerning responsible governance.

A set of power lines in Lubbock (photo credit: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

If anything is to be learned from the storm, it is the resounding gong of how unprepared Texas was for it. Would any other explanation than “we messed up,” be acceptable from ERCOT, Public Utility Commission (PUC), Governor Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and lawmakers? The words that follow the confession need to be put into action. Gov. Abbott and the legislature made several promises as to what will come but the governor’s demands are not always met in the legislature. It takes those in particular positions to carry out his wishes.

How dedicated will those in powerful positions be to responsible governance? They would show their commitment by advocating for the replacement of Commissioners from the PUC as it is their responsibility to oversee ERCOT. As reported in Texas media, ERCOT board members resigned and both state legislative chambers are holding hearings to get to the bottom of who knew what, when they knew it, and why the response was insufficient and deadly.

Those would be great first steps but more needs to be done to ensure something like this never happens again. First is the cleanup of “pay for play” corruption in Texas politics. It was recently reported ERCOT and PUC commissioners and board members donated large sums of money to Gov. Abbott and members of the House State Affairs Committee. It just so happens the House State Affairs Committee will hold the accountability hearing of ERCOT and PUC. Do we honestly expect firm questioning to the commissioners and board members from those who received their donations? Do not hold your breath.

The legislature should also forbid the governor from appointing a campaign donor to any board or commission. We saw the failure of “pay for play” with this freeze and it is time for it to be outlawed. If these sorts of sleaze are prevented, candid oversight can take place and corruption can be rooted out during the present and prevented in the future.

An analysis by the Wall Street Journal claimed how Texans paid $28 billion more for electricity since 2004 than they would have under a traditional utility structure. This is all due to the 1999 decision to deregulate the energy market and that left ERCOT customers open to a middleman. The legislature needs to reform this and save customers from untrustworthy companies like Griddy and Amber Electric that promise to give service directly to customers but instead have volatile, adjustable rates. This is why people in other parts of Texas experience jaw dropping electric bills while having no power. This is absolutely ridiculous and something the legislature can fix by reversing the decision it made in 1999 and make electricity a public service instead of a mechanism for greed.

Lubbockites should have a vested interest in what happens on this issue because we are joining ERCOT in June. While many have concerns, and they are good ones, we are probably entering the Texas grid at the most opportune time. If the legislature brings about meaningful reforms, this might be the best thing to happen to Lubbock energy. At the same time, however, the legislature could be influenced by their energy donors and the hearings could be nothing more than a dog and pony show that leads to nothing happening. I highly doubt the latter because this is the last session before a statewide election and Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick are up for reelection. Do you think they want a Texas sized blunder on their mantle heading into the fall of 2022?

All in all, it comes down to responsible government. Prior to the freeze, it was absent. Now, millions of Texans along with elected officials are picking up the pieces to figure out what to do next. The only answer is to reform the overseers and makes things that are supposed to work efficiently, efficiently work. Let us hope that is accomplished.



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Drew Landry

Drew Landry


Government Prof; Baseball fan; Political junkie; @drewllandry on Twitter