Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Saturday, January 29, 2022

More of Greg Abbott's lies: This time it's the grid

 The Dallas Morning News watchdog writer Dave Lieber’s Jan. 27, 2022 column is an important read for all Texans. The column relies on facts and fact-checking, citing the work of Ed Hirs, an energy scholar at the University of Houston. Hirs’ Jan. 21 white paper is a 17-page, meticulously sourced and documented condemnation of the Texas Energy grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and Gov. Greg Abbott and his right-wing, radical henchmen. “A Decade of Deliberate Inaction: Root Causes and Fallout from the Deadly Texas Power Failure of 2021” puts Hirs’ findings against Abbott’s rhetoric, the presentations at some town halls by ERCOT CEO and president Brad Jones and statements by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, a Republican from North Richmond Hills. Basically, Abbott, Jones and Hancock are liars — flat out liars.

 Here’s the bottom-line on all this: The Texas stand-alone grid is an abject failure of the promises of a competitive market to benefit consumers with lower prices; and, at times a deadly failure in the delivery of services In fact, Hirs proves the competitive model has done the exactly the opposite of those promises. It is neither delivering lower prices to consumers nor is it reliable at times of electrical stress on the grid. If you don’t believe that, go back to last year’s deadly freeze that stole the lives of at least 240 Texans and possibly as many as 700 innocent people. (Talk about right to life.) In fact, the failure of the grid has long been known and here’s the key paragraph in Hirs’ paper:

 “Generators failed during the winter storm in February 2021 with many of ‘the freeze-related outages occurring at temperatures above the unit’s stated ambient design temperature.’ Stripping away everything else, the system operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, failed because generator companies did not invest in weatherization practices after a similar failure in 2011. For eight of the 10 years prior to 2021, the average wholesale price of electricity in ERCOT was too low for generator companies to earn returns on capital. Consequently, they had every incentive not to invest in weatherization. The ERCOT market rewarded volatility at the expense of reliability, despite a decade of warning.”

Like many Americans and fellow Texans, I wonder how conservatives — especially the “Christian” conservatives — reconcile their tenets of faith with their politics and actions. I am not only talking about the protect-the-rich and screw-the-poor politics, although that’s certainly bad enough; but I am also talking about something far more basic. I am talking about their lack character.

 Over and over, the teachings of churches, religions and catechisms mandate the true believer be honest; be a truth-teller and not knowingly lie. And yet, Abbott, and indeed the Republican Party, continue to lie and deceive the public by word and deed. And, a point that applies more specifically to Greg Abbott. Lawyers are held to a higher standard of honesty and conduct. That’s according to the Texas Bar Association’s Code of Ethics, which buries that in Rule 4.01. But a rule it is.

 So, when Abbott is on the hustings, all that talk about books, the border and the reliability of the electrical grid are pretty much lies. Of course, we have a way to understand the lies and the entire “competitive” or “market model.” But to do so, one has to be familiar with the work of James McGill Buchanan and his public choice theory. I’ve discussed it before when I’ve written about “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America,” by Award winning Duke University historian Nancy MacLean. 

Texans deserve better. The State Bar deserves someone on its rolls better than Greg Abbott. I doubt it will happen, but at least I know what’s going on. I pray the long arc of history will bring justice and accountability will prevail.