Relief Contribution to the State of Texas During the Feb. 2021 Winter Storm

Civil Order No. 2

The state of Texas has been withstanding a historic winter storm. With widespread power outages, millions of Texans are freezing in record-low temperatures. The storm has overwhelmed the infrastructure of Texas, resulting in inaccessible roads, closures of vital businesses, water treatment plants to shut down, [1] and other serious malfunctions. The people of Texas are enduring such disruptions amid a global pandemic with daily new cases reaching in the thousands. [2] These incidents have alarmed me, and I have determined to dedicate my second civil order to contribute relief to the state of Texas during these challenging times.

THE SITUATION 

Feb. 13, 2021, a winter storm swept through many regions of the United States. The storm started in the Northwest, moved to the South, and continues to impact (as of Feb. 18) the Midwest and Northeast United States. [3] In Texas, nearly three million people, to include children and elders, have had to persevere through days without clean water, electricity, sustenance, and warmth. [4]

THE SITUATION EXAMINED

Officials from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the managing organization for most of Texas’ energy grid, said the primary reason for the extensive power outages is due to the sudden drop in temperatures. Most of Texas relies on natural gas, extracted from offsite oil fields, and then pumped through pipelines into plants that generate heat and power for customers. Due to limited space for fuel storage, these pipelines are constantly flowing with natural gas. The design of this energy system cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. As a result, when the winter storm hit Texas, natural gas wells froze, which stopped half of Texas’ natural gas production. [5]

Natural gas production is not the only source of power in Texas that has experienced difficulties due to the extreme winter. According to grid operators, half of Texas’ capacity to generate wind power has been offline because wind turbines in West Texas have frozen. [6] Wind and solar accounted for 24.8 and 3.8 percent (respectively) of power in Texas in 2020, but natural gas still leads the way by 51 percent. [7]

In identifying specific failures in Texas’ energy infrastructure, legislators should focus on the state’s overdependence on natural gas production. Additionally, they should address the necessity to sufficiently upgrade or “winterize” Texas’ power grid, which has remained isolated from the rest of the country to avoid federal regulators. Community leaders have criticized such action—or inaction more like—prioritizes profits instead of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Texans. [8]

Texas has been through a similar winter snap in 2011. Even then, experts warned that spikes in demand for electricity during extreme weather events is pushing the state power grid to the brink of complete shutdown. Similar phenomena occurred during summers with record-high heat days. Due to global warming, winters on average have become milder. However, some scientists link climate change, specifically the Artic heat wave, to the increased volatility of the atmosphere, which causes intense and sudden winter storms like the one Texas is facing. [9]

While the scientific community is still debating on the influence of the warming Artic to new meteorological episodes, Texas cannot expect to modernize its power grid without taking into consideration the threats posed by climate change. The very reason Texas could not prevent these catastrophic power outages, is because government and industry officials ignored signs that the state’s energy infrastructure is vulnerable to extreme weathers. Since the last winter storm, ERCOT made minimal efforts to renovate its system. Consequently, Texas was defenseless against the Feb. 2021 winter storm, which forced more than three million people to live without electricity. [10]

Texas must commit to higher regulation, so its energy infrastructure undergoes the essential upgrades to serve the people of Texas most effectively. Also, Texas must commit to clean and renewable energy to break away from its reliance on natural gas and coal. Contrary to what some influencers and media personalities insist, “Of the power shortfall that hit Texas, over 80 percent was due to problems at coal and gas-fired plants,” according to PolitiFact, and not wind turbines. [11]

PERSONAL PLAN OF ACTION

I will donate 103 dollars to the Austin Area Urban League (AAUL) to assist them in providing shelter, food, water, and clothing to people affected by the winter storm.

As soon as the roads are safe to drive again, I will travel to purchase supplies, specifically: plastic eating utensils, plastic plates, and jackets, to donate to the Friends in Crisis Homeless Shelter in Killeen. I will attempt to persuade some of my neighbors to join in the effort.

In the mean time, I will continue to minimally use electric appliances, and keep my thermostat to 68 degrees, as recommended by local Texas news outlets. [12]

I will access my social media accounts to spread word of the following charitable campaigns and organizations: aaul.org, feedthepeopledallas.com, gofundme.com/f/kick-the-cold-austin-mutal-aid, and mutualaidhou.com.

STYLE NOTE

Given the urgency of this plan of action, I opted not to completely follow the requirements of the Modern Language Association (MLA) format for my citations section.

Works Cited

[1] https://abcnews.go.com/US/texas-power-outages-water-shortages-put-bigger-strain/story?id=75970571

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/texas-coronavirus-cases.html

[3] https://www.npr.org/2021/02/16/968293872/winter-storm-not-over-yet-for-much-of-the-country

[4] https://www.npr.org/2021/02/16/968293872/winter-storm-not-over-yet-for-much-of-the-country

[5] https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/natural-gas-power-storm/

[6] https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2021/02/14/historic-winter-storm-freezes-texas-wind-turbines-hampering-electric-generation/4483230001/

[7] https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2021/02/17/texas-energy-wind-power-outage-natural-gas-renewable-green-new-deal/6780546002/

[8] https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/17/texas-power-grid-failures/#:~:text=Texas%20leaders%20failed%20to%20heed,to%20winter%20extremes%2C%20experts%20say&text=That%2C%20plus%20a%20deregulated%20energy,with%20the%20crisis%2C%20experts%20said

[9] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/texas-power-outage-underscores-looming-climate-tests/

[10] https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/columnists/tomlinson/article/Don-t-blame-Texas-energy-players-for-blackout-15955248.php#photo-20619009

[11] https://www.politifact.com/article/2021/feb/16/natural-gas-not-wind-turbines-main-driver-texas-po/

[12] https://www.wfaa.com/article/weather/tips-on-how-to-prepare-for-cold-weather-winter-storm-event-dfw-texas/287-38d61478-5db4-4a6d-adae-05719b43b867