As you sit in your home, where the lights turn on, the water runs clean from the tap, the stove is ready to cook your next meal, your refrigerator is keeping your food from spoiling and your kids can go to sleep in a warm bedroom, be happy that you live in a place where electrical power is regulated by government. And be very glad you do not live in Texas, where belief in deregulation and privatization have been coupled with climate-change denial to form a fanatic political dogma.
Millions of Texans are still struggling to recover from the human disaster created by that fanaticism. Yes, the collapse of the Texas power grid came in the wake of unusually cold weather, but the failure to anticipate the effects of an inevitable freeze was a consequence of politics.
In 1999, Texas Gov. George W. Bush signed into law a sweeping deregulation of his state’s electrical system. The power to light homes, businesses, hospitals and schools was put entirely in the hands of private entrepreneurs with minimal state oversight. Even though Texas had experienced serious cold snaps and more were deemed likely to come because of climate change, the power companies did not take the warnings seriously and did not dip into their profits to pay for insulation and weatherization of the various components of the electrical grid.
When the cold hit this month, ordinary Texans paid the price, some with their lives.
Many of the Republican politicians responsible for this deregulated nightmare tried to deflect and distract by blaming the disaster on windmills that iced up and stopped. They claimed this was proof that the Green New Deal proposed by progressives would be a disaster and that fossil fuels must remain America’s prime energy source. The truth suggests the opposite: Collapse of the natural gas delivery system was the core cause of the statewide power outage.
Neither the windmills nor the natural gas pipes and pumps would have stopped working, though, if they had been properly readied to cope with cold weather. That did not happen because private owners were neglectful and greedy and because Republican leaders were blinded by their absolutist faith in free markets as the answer for every problem.
In Seattle and the region in which we live, we can be exceedingly grateful our leaders, past and present, have made wiser choices about how to maintain and oversee a power system on which our lives literally depend.
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