This winters' infrastructure catastrophe in Texas

Bartholomew Gallacher

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At the moment it's a really bad time to be in Texas. Due to the onset of winter, which was never experienced before, the whole state is utterly unprepared for what's happening right now. What we're witnessing at the moment is a chain of self-energising effects, which ultimately leads to the total failure of big parts of its infrastructure.

To keep the power grid somewhat running electricity suppliers in Texas are now practicing rotating blackouts. 1/4 of all households in Texas are without electrical power at the moment.

Since suddenly a lot of Texans want to heat their homes the demand on electricity, the spot demand will increase dramatically up to the point that outages in all of Texas will become reality.


Tap water is frozen in many communities. Using streets is almost impossible, because the cities are unprepared for a winter of this measure and simply don't have the necessary tools at hand to clear the streets of snow.

The reason for this atypical winter is climate change. It's quite sure that this will be just the first winter in a loose chain of such events.

Water treatment plants fail due to power outages.


Meanwhile electrical power becomes a luxury good, the invisible hand of the market its doing its thing and for electricity suppliers one kWh costs now 9 US$ on the spot market.


Due Texas having their own power grid they cannot get electrical power from somewhere else.

In big cities light now clearly illuminates where the rich are living, like in Austin, Houston or Dallas:


In the whole town of Dallas there's only one warming center for homeless or other people who need some warmth.

The mobile phone grid is failing, because there's no electrical power and the emergency backup generators are frozen. Also first deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Houston Chronicle was unable to print its Tuesday issue due to power outage. This didn't even happen in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey.

Cities like Abilene are shutting down their water treatment and service due to the power outages.

34 GW on power capacity are missing; the national guard should help.

Also gas and oil pipelines are frozen. The missing electrical power produced by wind turbines is roughly 10 GW, the rest is almost entirely fossil.

Meanwhile in Austin some hotels still have power, so if you want to stay in a nice and warm room, for 1000 bucks only you can rent it. Hotels in most cities are booked out at the moment.

Big parts of Houston have a 20h lasting power outage, and its mayor is really pissed:


The problem why the outage happened? Because instruments at the fossile power plants are currently frozen, and cannot be heated! "Blaming reduced wind output is really a red herring!"

A word of warning makes the round: the number of people suffering carbon monoxide poisoning is increasing at an alarming rate, because many people bring outdoor appliances (grills etc.) inside, or run their car inside a garage.

Tap water stored in bath tubs to have a small local supply to overcome possible outages might become ice.

Also a side note: this winter event is disrupting COVID19 vaccinations.

It's so cold, that fire departments are unable to battle house fires because water treatments are offline and there's too low water pressure, in case the pipe is not frozen already.


Due to the cold temperatures a lot of water pipes cannot withstand the pressure any longer and are breaking. In Austin the fire department gets about one such call per minute, and can only respond to a fraction of it, meaning are unable to fix them all on time.


The power outages also affect farmers, dairy operations are really hard to do right now, which is bad for the cows.

Winter storm in Texas: At least 10 deaths linked to statewide disaster; Austin outages may last another day or more

People in Harris County were told to cook water and store it for later usage, if possible.

If things go well, the needed electrical power will be available Thursday:

By the way when the gas pipelines started to freeze it's quite probably that some power plants were turned off on purpose for profit. The reason why? The electrical power companies are mostly buying gas without price fixing, but sell them to their customers with fixed rates. When the gas price became too high to make profit turning off looks nicely to their owners.

Also the authorities authorized now the electrical power suppliers to charge the spot market prices to their customers. Millions of Texans will get a hefty power bill for this event.
 

bubblesort

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I bet the corona rate is going to spike bad in places with a lot of blackouts. I imagine social distancing without electricity is difficult, even in the best circumstances, but in a situation like this? People are going to go crazy.
 

Beebo Brink

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Texas mayor tells residents to fend for themselves during power outage: ‘Only the strong will survive’
“The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING!” he wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.

Boyd suggested that residents without electricity should simply “step up and come up with a game plan.” Those without running water could either deal with it, or “think outside of the box to survive and supply water to your family.” He did not offer any further guidance, such as where safe drinking water or reliable electricity could be found.

“Only the strong will survive and the weak will [perish],” he wrote.
 

Kalel

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danielravennest

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They didn't want regulation from the federal government, so they kept their grid isolated from the rest of the country. No interstate commerce = no federal oversight. So of course, in a situation like this, they can't import power from elsewhere to meet demand.

Wind turbines can work fine in northern Canada, but they have to be designed for it, by having heaters in the blades to melt the ice. To save money, the Texas ones don't have heaters. Same goes for fossil plants. The gauges and valves are frozen because they didn't include insulation or heaters.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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This is old news, let me give you the update: Texas mayor resigns after telling residents he owed them ‘nothing’ following storm power outage!

The mayor of a Texas town who told residents he owed them “nothing” as winter storms left millions across the state without power in single digit temperatures has resigned.

“No one owes you [or] your family anything,” Tim Boyd, previously mayor of Colorado City, Texas wrote Tuesday in a Facebook post. “I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!”

He has since deleted the post.
In a second post, Mr Boyd said he “won’t deny for one minute” anything he said in the previous post, but complained that his wife had faced harassment while adding that he had resigned from his position.


Mr Boyd said he made the comments as a “private citizen,” and that he had resigned his position days earlier. He is still listed as mayor on the city’s website, and city council agendas cite him as mayor as recently as last week, according to The Washington Post.

 
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Bartholomew Gallacher

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Wind turbines can work fine in northern Canada, but they have to be designed for it, by having heaters in the blades to melt the ice. To save money, the Texas ones don't have heaters. Same goes for fossil plants. The gauges and valves are frozen because they didn't include insulation or heaters.
The issue is wind turbines only played a minor role in this, the real problem was the gas outage of 30 GW. And probably some gas power plants were shutdown on purpose to save the profits.
 
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Jopsy Pendragon

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In a second post, Mr Boyd said he “won’t deny for one minute” anything he said in the previous post, but complained that his wife had faced harassment while adding that he had resigned from his position.
I read his wife got fired due to her husband's comments earlier.

""hand outs""?! People want the gas and electric THEY'RE PAYING FOR, and want you their mayor to make sure the city functions and has adequate plans/preparation for emergencies.

But nooooo, the moment the job gets hard you blame your constituents, throw up your hands and quit like a big fat loser.

I'd laugh but your stunt will likely make you the next "Joe the Plumber" celebidiot the republicans trot out for their fascist rallies. Congrats.
 

Caete

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The Austin pic is nothing new. Can you guess which side of the freeway the historically black/minority neighbourhoods are on?

You can bet even money that the reason systems were not cold weather insulated was due to the extra cost. I'm fairly sure the execs in charge at the time weighed the cost vs profits vs their bonuses, decided since it is essentially a generational issue that they'd be retired by the time it happened again, so give me the money and kick th problem down the road to the next execs...
 

Cindy Claveau

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You can bet even money that the reason systems were not cold weather insulated was due to the extra cost. I'm fairly sure the execs in charge at the time weighed the cost vs profits vs their bonuses, decided since it is essentially a generational issue that they'd be retired by the time it happened again, so give me the money and kick th problem down the road to the next execs...
It actually depends on the regulation involved. In my state, execs can't be paid excessive salaries because the State actively regulates costs and profits.

Power plants are also a 40+ year outlay which must be repaid to investors. You don't want a plant that's so over-built it sits at under 50% capacity much of the time, just as you don't want to underbuild and risk not being able to meet demand. In Texas' case, the thinking has been that they don't want to participate in any outside generating pool because it would bring Federal regulation. The same regulation that might have prevented the mess they're in right now.
 

Kamilah Hauptmann

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It actually depends on the regulation involved. In my state, execs can't be paid excessive salaries because the State actively regulates costs and profits.

Power plants are also a 40+ year outlay which must be repaid to investors. You don't want a plant that's so over-built it sits at under 50% capacity much of the time, just as you don't want to underbuild and risk not being able to meet demand. In Texas' case, the thinking has been that they don't want to participate in any outside generating pool because it would bring Federal regulation. The same regulation that might have prevented the mess they're in right now.
Regulation is communism tho.