It’s been a crazy week of snow, ice, rolling blackouts, and sadness all across the south, but especially in Texas where the government there has completely mismanaged the grid, which led to what some are calling a class warfare type of situation where it seems that the government is intentionally freezing the poor. The New York Times reported that these blackouts are hitting minority neighborhoods especially hard.
In Dallas, for example, many are without power while the downtown and mostly empty office buildings have their lights on 24/7. Even the Oncor building is lit. Oncor is the area’s residential and commercial electricity delivery company. You can watch the video of this here.
There are even stories about how Kroger is calling the police on people who try to take food out of the dumpsters that the grocery company threw away because they couldn’t refrigerate it. If you think about it for a moment, keeping perishables cool shouldn’t be that hard during an outage caused by a winter storm. I understand frozen lettuce isn’t ideal, but throwing away food because the power went out in freezing temperatures is a waste.
Rolling blackouts lead one to think that all affected will share electricity during times of struggle, but this wasn’t the case for many in Texas, including Phillip Hollocher, who is a small business owner in Houston.
Phillip is the owner of a business called Solar Control Films, Inc. and has a 15,000 square-foot warehouse. He also employs 8 people and the warehouse is close to downtown. Phillip told me that 4 houses in a row on his block had their pipes blown out.
Phillip was without electricity in Houston for 3 days. “I believe we’ve read that 60% of the homes did not have electricity for a few days on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday,” he told me. “It’s been a hardship. The whole point of the rolling blackouts was supposed to be like ‘well you guys get electricity for an hour then someone else has it for an hour and so on.’ But that didn’t happen.”
He told me that’s how it was explained to him, but when they lost power, it wasn’t for an hour or two — it was for four days in freezing weather. “That happened on Monday. We lost our power and it never came back on until last Wednesday night at 10 p.m. So that was three days without power.”
Phillip shared his frustration at how the local government was handling it.
“The governor decided to put propaganda on Fox News and started complaining about the Green New Deal. And the problem is that none of the power stations have been winterized. And they were warned in 2011, I believe, was the year when we had the same problem that this would happen. And they need to winterize all the equipment. The governor is in charge of the utility operations which supervise the industry. And they did nothing.” He told me that they were warned and people pleaded with the state to winterize the wind turbines, but since there was no profit in doing this, it never happened.
He described this as a catastrophic failure by the coal, gas, and nuclear companies. “[T]hey work in Norway, Scotland, and North Dakota. So there’s no reason why they can’t work in Texas,” he told me. Later, after recording this video, I browsed through TikTok and discovered that there were wind turbines in Texas that actually worked. Several users were taking videos of the working wind turbines in Texas despite the governor’s claims that they don’t work. Perhaps he didn’t see the ones that did work.
As for him blaming renewables as the reason for the grid’s failure, others took to Twitter to debunk those theories.
Here’s a photo of three wind turbines working in the cold. It’s not a wind turbine problem it’s a Texas problem.
How do I know they can handle the Texas cold? This photo is from Antarctica. pic.twitter.com/sjILkfHnre
— Will McAvoy (@WillMcAvoyACN) February 17, 2021
The turbines in Texas only froze because ERCOT refused to winterize them in 2011. The motor in a wind turbine is no different from a natural gas turbine which is why both froze in Texas. pic.twitter.com/sxqyRoACSy
— Gar (@TastyBaldEagle) February 19, 2021
“Instead of taking responsibility, our governor of Texas just started throwing blame on other things. This made him look like an uneducated person who doesn’t know how to solve problems. He’s in charge. And he’s done nothing, along with his predecessor, to support energy distribution systems. We paid the price and people have died,” Phillip told me. “It’s a tragedy that so many people, especially the elderly, had to suffer three nights at 12 degrees Fahrenheit weather with no electricity to stay warm.”
Senator Fled Cruz
One of Phillip’s senators is Senator Ted Cruz, or “Fled Cruz” as I now call him. Senator Cruz decided to vacation in Cancun, Mexico, where it was warm, while his constituents were left behind with no electricity, no water, and no food in freezing temperatures.
“I heard yesterday that he went on an airplane to Cancun and he’s my senator. I believe he lives in Houston. He lost power like I lost power and he just jumped on an airplane with his family to Mexico, which is shameful. Leaders need to lead and find problems when they arise. It’s a failure of leadership by Senator Cruz. I’m very disappointed that my senator would not do his job and would run off to Mexico then blame his little girls that are like 10 or 11 for wanting to go to Mexico. He’s the parent. His people were in trouble and he fled. He’s a sorry example of someone that doesn’t know how to be a leader and doesn’t come up with solutions. And we’re tired of people blaming others. He should take responsibility and find solutions,” Phillip said.
No Recovery Relief?
I asked Phillip if there were recovery efforts such as the Red Cross. He told me that there wasn’t from what he could tell. He said that he was told that all of the warming shelters were full and that it wasn’t safe to travel the roads. “On Monday and Tuesday when we had no electricity, it was going to be 12 degrees at night. They said, ‘Do not go on the road. That’s not safe. Do not come to the shelters. They are full.’ And that was it. No shelter space and we can’t go on the road. We have no power. So I’m sure people are doing something. I saw a video of people collecting water.”
On that topic, Phillip told me that he had no water. The pipes had burst and there has been no water pressure for anyone. “We had to collect rainwater yesterday and the day before to wash our hands and wash the dishes,” he explained.
FEMA has been delivering supplies including 60 generators, blankets, and water, and is preparing to move diesel into the state.
“Because of the leadership that has happened here, Texas is a third-world environment. We have been pushed into a third-world situation where we have to use rainwater to wash our hands, dishes, and to use the toilets so they can flush. Many people have toilets that are stuck. It’s been terrible — a disaster and there’s no leader that has come forth to find solutions.”
“They just decided 60% of the population wouldn’t get power for a few days.”
Phillip shared that there are lots of solutions out there. “If only we would have invested wisely or simply regulated the utilities to make sure that they were winterized.” (By “we” he meant the state government.)
He pointed out that some of the wind turbines were worn and that this would most likely happen if they weren’t winterized. “We had a complete failure and as we said, they didn’t share the rolling power out. They just decided 60% of the population wouldn’t get power for a few days.” In this type of cold weather, this could be seen as mass murder. Think about it — no electricity in 12-degree weather for 3 days? People will die. (Editor’s note: people have died.)
Galveston County actually needed the help with storing bodies after the brutal freeze and days-long power outages. This is just one county. Hundreds of thousands of homes in Galveston County went without power since Monday, and temperatures were below freezing for much of that time. He told me he thought that the governor once said that leadership needed to step down. “And you know who the leadership is? It’s the governor. He should step down. He should listen to his own words and step down from this failure. He failed to prepare. He knew this would happen. Instead, he’s complaining about non-existent problems.”
Texas Needs Elon Musk
Texas needs a problem solver, Phillip told me. Texas needs Elon Musk — not in the office, because he is too valuable but as an advisor. “He looks for problems. He solves them and tries to save money. We need to save money. We need geothermal heat pumps or just heat pumps. We need more solar panels,” he said, while adding that they should invest in wind turbines that would compliment the western turbines.
“West Texas turbines apparently have air at different times.” He explained that if there were eastern wind turbines to complement the western turbines, then they would be working all of the time, since the wind blows at different times. “I wish I had enough money to have invested in solar power with battery storage because I could have gotten through this a lot more easily. I have a Cybertruck reserved. If I’d had that, I could have stayed warm in my Cybertruck and used the battery to run things.”
Regarding Elon Musk, Phillip told me that the state government should ask for Elon’s expertise or Tesla’s expertise. After all, Elon is a Texas resident now and also a Texas business owner, since one of Tesla’s Gigafactories is being built near the state’s capital city of Austin.
Phillip’s business, Solar Control Films, Inc, specializes in making and selling film for both autos and buildings that tint their windows to prevent the sun from coming in during the summertime. His business was hit pretty hard by the disaster and the state’s failure to lead. “I’ve lost three and a half days of business because we had no power or water. We couldn’t ship anything out, but I still have to pay my bills. So it’s hurt us. We probably lost $75,000 in business because of the Texas leadership not preventing this tragedy from happening. So it hurt Texas businesses and we’re upset. We need changes,” Phillip told me.
This is tragic. And I feel very blessed to live in Louisiana, where even though we were affected as well, we are not on the ERCOT grid or left at the whims of a state government that is so useless in these types of situations. I had a friend from Texas tell me today she just got her power own. Another friend has been living off of peanut butter for several days. Even with my two heaters and gas oven going, I was cold in my apartment.
My house wasn’t built to withstand a deep freeze and neither were many other houses here in the Deep South. I have no insulation in my walls. None. My 150-year old home has cracks in the floor, walls, and doors. I used blankets, towels, and duct tape to try to seal out as much of the cold air as I could. We had to go and wrap all of our exposed pipes and drip our water so the pipes wouldn’t burst. My water still froze — even with the oven going. It got that cold.
I was grateful that I didn’t lose power for long. I did, but only for an hour before it came back on. I’d been getting texts from Entergy claiming that they were doing rolling blackouts. Texas — well, Texas had a different story.