Were you able to shower last night? Wash your face? Brush your teeth? This morning, were you able to make yourself food? Or watch your parents brew their daily cup of coffee? For almost 4.5 million Texans, the answer to those questions would be no as they experienced a massive power outage due to the power company’s failure to properly prepare for the storm.
Last Tuesday, Texas’s power grid collapsed and 46,000 megawatts went offline. This lasted for days as the people of Texas were left without power which meant no heat, no electricity, and no water.
Since Texas’s electricity market is deregulated, officials left the responsibility of preparing for the icy weather to privatized power companies, making it voluntary to make infrastructure ready for harsh weather. These companies prioritized profit and money over the safety of their customers. Because winterizing energy infrastructure is costly and time-consuming, these private companies decided to ignore the voluntary guidelines for the state and were not adequately prepared for the freezing temperatures and storms. Further, failure of Texas officials to enforce safety regulations after dealing with the 2011 energy crisis when similar storms caused power outages throughout the state has caused this preventable disaster to happen again.
In subfreezing temperatures without heat or electricity, over 30 people have died because of the outages. In Houston, three children and their grandmother died after the flames in the fireplace they were using to try and keep warm ended up escaping. Another family passed away because they inhaled carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage. Officials estimated that many more have died – their bodies simply not yet discovered.
Let this be a lesson to the officials of Texas, and other states as well, to not incentivise money over the lives of people. When people’s means of sustenance become profitable for enterprises to make money, it can, and will, inevitably lead to disaster.