I have nothing against Texas. I have nothing against any state, really. Each and every state has a collection of terrible and wonderful people, although some of them need to DO BETTER, as the kids say these days. (Looking at you, Idaho. And several others.) Texas is the same as any, but yes, often it makes me weary.
It’s all that yee-haw Texas crap they’re always pulling. Yee-haw, we’re a nation unto ourselves! Yee-haw, we’re ruggedly independent and self-reliant! Yee-haw, let’s secede!
See, I’m old enough to remember the “let ’em freeze in the dark” Texas of the ’70s and ’80s, when they sneered at Michigan residents who were refugeeing to Texas like Okies; the auto industry was on its knees, the weather was awful and they’d heard there were jobs to be had in the oil industry, or the awl bidnis as it’s known down there. Michiganians were called the “black tag people,” as I recall, after the license plate colors of the time. Basically, Texans behaved like Texas-size assholes. I have not forgotten.
Later, when the tables were turned, when the awl bidnis fell on hard times, I don’t recall any of them getting an attitude adjustment. But let’s not be petty. I will be the bigger person here. I will say I am perfectly fine with helping Texas as it suffers through Michigan-like weather it is utterly unprepared for. Only it turns out we cannot help them because the Texas electrical grid is a closed system and why? Because yee-haw Texas, that’s why:
The separation of the Texas grid from the rest of the country has its origins in the evolution of electric utilities early last century. In the decades after Thomas Edison turned on the country’s first power plant in Manhattan in 1882, small generating plants sprouted across Texas, bringing electric light to cities. Later, particularly during the first world war, utilities began to link themselves together. These ties, and the accompanying transmission network, grew further during the second world war, when several Texas utilities joined together to form the Texas Interconnected System, which allowed them to link to the big dams along Texas rivers and also send extra electricity to support the ramped-up factories aiding the war effort.
The Texas Interconnected System — which for a long time was actually operated by two discrete entities, one for northern Texas and one for southern Texas — had another priority: staying out of the reach of federal regulators. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Power Act, which charged the Federal Power Commission with overseeing interstate electricity sales. By not crossing state lines, Texas utilities avoided being subjected to federal rules. “Freedom from federal regulation was a cherished goal — more so because Texas had no regulation until the 1970s,” writes Richard D. Cudahy in a 1995 article, “The Second Battle of the Alamo: The Midnight Connection.” (Self-reliance was also made easier in Texas, especially in the early days, because the state has substantial coal, natural gas and oil resources of its own to fuel power plants.)
I’m told Texas is, in this emergency, getting a helping hand from Mexico, and brothers and sisters, that is hilarious.
I have only really visited Texas once. We drove across part of the panhandle some years back, passing through Amarillo, home of the American Quarter Horse registry. I recall lots of flat landscapes and…not much else. And I visited Houston for a job interview in 2004. It was…fine, I guess, although I was appalled by the local attitude toward fossil fuels. At least three people told me they’d mastered “air-conditioning the outdoors,” explaining how the roof on the baseball stadium was partially closed, then giant A/C ducts turned down on the spectators. Also, there was something in the parks, I forget. (Yes, I believe I’ve told this story before.)
“I don’t really like hot weather all that much,” I offered, weakly.
“Aw, you’ll change your tune after you spend your first Christmas in shorts!” one editor said. Yee-haw, Texas!
But I understand suffering, and I’m sure that single-digit weather in a place that is absolutely not built for it is miserable. Frozen pipes are miserable. Not having heat because of rolling blackouts? Miserable. Dangerous, even. People will die because they lack coping skills, and as I write this, I believe at least two have already perished from CO poisoning, trying to stay warm in a running car.
But I won’t say let ’em freeze in the dark. It’s a new era, and we need one another. But I will not forgive Ted Cruz. You Texans have to fix that one.
Also, stop building houses in reservoirs, you greedy idiots. You get hurricanes! JFC.
As for the actual dark, here in the land of the black-tag people, we got hammered overnight. The drifts were four inches up the back door this morning, and Wendy was super-bummed about that. I shoveled her out a little pee patch, cleared the back steps, failed to get the snow blower to start and left it to Alan, who is doing it now. More on the way, too, on Thursday, although it’ll be a little warmer. But we have insulation and long underwear and snow plows and know not to let a car be your furnace.
We haven’t air-conditioned the outdoors yet. And I prefer our bearded senator.
OK then, here’s the midweek update, a little early. Gotta start putting the DD newsletter together.