The lights are again on in Texas, however the true extent of the catastrophe gained't be seen for weeks
As Bloomberg reports, the outages have placed Texas with a "food supply nightmare." It's not just grocery stores that have the bins filled with tons of groceries. It's every home in Texas that both of them have been unable to keep a refrigerator running and fail to cook the food they already had. It's also every restaurant in 90% of the state that has electricity controlled through the ERCOT closed grid.
After a week, Texans find that their shelves are empty, shops are empty, and restaurants are closed.
The disaster also penetrated the utility lines and affected the production of meat through to production. Hatcheries could not incubate eggs. Meat processors and wholesalers made their own contributions to the mountains of spoiled or unsafe food.
There were temporary failures of certain products during the pandemic, but Americans could get by anywhere, even if there was frustration. However, Texans are finding that it is not possible to install a solution from Instacart or DoorDash if everything fails at once due to a lack of the country's staple food: energy. In Texas – Texas – many people have also reported having difficulty locating gasoline.
Retail shelves in some areas have started to recover, although many stores are maintaining restricted hours and shopping to get things back to normal levels. And those issues with suppliers mean it can take weeks for the situation to smooth out and Texans can stroll into a supermarket to find the level of abundance expected.
The situation is more complicated for restaurants. Not only have many lost large amounts of food, it has been difficult to make up for those losses. At the same time, water outages keep some locations closed, while cooking jobs make life overly difficult in other locations. All of this comes to a pandemic year that saw many restaurants either close or restrict their restaurants. Running a restaurant is an economically questionable business in the prime of the year. This was the worst year. And there is no doubt that for some restaurants in Texas, the power outage and associated disasters will be the last straw. Some will never come back.
There have been some moving examples of kindness and decency that have emerged from this disaster. Restaurants have given away thousands of meals instead of letting their food spoil. Shopkeepers in areas lucky enough to have constant power have turned their locations into shelters for Texans trapped in freezing cold houses. But these events will not nearly make up for the losses.
Thousands of house and apartment owners come out of the power outages with severe water damage. For most of them, their insurance does not cover this damage.
Even so, these may not be the Texans facing the biggest bills. Some people whose houses are perfectly fine could still lose those houses in the next few months to something that seems ridiculous – the bills they face from the deregulated Texas market.
There are two types of energy plan in many areas of Texas. A fixed or semi-fixed price is offered, regardless of the market price for electricity. The other makes prices fluctuate and provides electricity at a percentage above the wholesale costs. Many people have signed up for the second type of plan, especially because it has been advertised as a cheaper solution – and has been for several years. But now people whose energy plans, including pricing, that fluctuates with the market will face huge bills. On Saturday mornings, electricity bills were still 300% of normal, but on Tuesday and Wednesday the market was 27,000% of normal all day. People who have never lost power may still face a ruinous catastrophe. one that arrives in your mailbox.
That may sound incredible, but it was a man-made disaster on every level. No earthquake has brought down homes in Texas. No hurricane came in from the sea. The power grid went down because it was shut down to avoid damage caused by a mismatch in high demand during a period of severe cold and poor supply as gas, coal and nuclear power plants all went out of service. It would have been nice if the state wind turbines could have caught up with the slack – they can occasionally meet 60% of Texan demand. That wasn't possible in the first part of this week, not because those turbines were frozen, but because the winds were weak. They're often around this time of year, so the rest of the system should do the job. It was not like that.
What happened in Texas is the end result of a system tailored to meet the needs of pure neoconservative disaster capitalism. When billionaires scream that they hit the jackpot because of the rising cost of natural gas, or when a small producer turns a week of $ 40,000 into a godsend of $ 10 million because electricity is at $ 9,000 an hour, then the money doesn't. I don't come from nowhere. It comes from common people. It comes from the people whose water pipes have burst, from the restaurant owners whose food has spoiled, and from any Texan who wants to open that friendly envelope from their utility company. It is they who are now taking what little they have and sending it directly to the people who caused this disaster in the first place.
The disaster in Texas is not over yet. It will never be over as long as Republicans can keep selling them with the idea that it is better to die than to have a system that works for them rather than the billionaires.
Ocasio-Cortez in Houston today with The TX Representative Sylvia Garcia, who is volunteering at the Houston Food Bank in the weather crisis in TX
– Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) February 20, 2021