February 21, 2021

A Letter to my fellow Texans (& for my Non-Texans, here is a look into what is Happening).

Here is a look into what is happening in Texas.

I am writing this next to my gas fireplace while my children play quietly in their lantern-lit bedroom. I am in awe at how a snowstorm has shut down one of the wealthiest states in our beloved country. As a Minnesota native, I know winter, and yet luckily, I have never experienced frozen temperatures paired with days without warm water or electricity (except for the camping trip to the Boundary Waters back in 1999).

What I have seen living in Texas for the last eight years is extreme amounts of wealth, a thriving economy, beautiful parks, easy country living, and so much more that makes me proud to be a Texan. And yet, in a time of crisis, Texas leaders have the inability to use common sense and rational problem-solving skills to help the people. The blame game and political divisions surface all while people are scattered to find life-saving resources, such as heat and clean water.

I have received messages from my utility companies that have me not only dumbfounded but wondering if concern for humanity is a prerequisite for filling leadership positions.

Over the last 72 hours we’ve been told to:

1) Lower the thermostat to 68 degrees.

My house has not been at 68 degrees for three days. It has averaged a mild 55 degrees—and we are among the fortunate. We have had eight hours of no heat and then two-hour spurts of heat where we shut ourselves off in the warmest room in the house, curtains drawn and thaw together. It has reminded me of the importance of not only body heat and blankets but the need for community.

2) Wrap newspaper around the pipes, and if they freeze, take a blow dryer to the pipe.

This was the suggestion from our energy company. I know this trick as I did this back in 1980 in Minnesota when there were newspapers! In 2021 I am laughing. Take the newspaper out of the equation and the battery-operated blow dryer that we will put on our list of items needed during a crisis. Instead, let’s hop in the car and drive to the hardware store for proper insulation. But first, we must get the car out of the garage.

3) Venture to the local hardware store to prepare pipes for extreme temperatures.

The hardware stores are loving this. The lines are long and people have forgotten we are also in the middle of a pandemic. Masks are worn but social distancing is lost. People are crowded in the plumbing aisle, fighting for pipe fittings.

4) Support the oil field.

We love our oil fields. Oil fields have fed my family for the last eight years. I support our oil fields, and yet, the future of oil is questionable. Rumor in the oil field is that we have 50 years left of oil. I say rumor with all seriousness because possibly there is unlimited oil for the next 2000 years. But let’s say it’s actually a finite resource. This will impact my children and future generations of children.

To say we should do away with the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now Act (GREEN) is frightening. We need multiple sources of energy to stay alive. Up until now an estimated 10 percent of our energy has come from renewable sources so this is not to blame—yet—for this particular crisis.

5) Find a hotspot.

Our internet service provider told us to drive to a local hot spot and connect to the vague and unknown spot to work. Starbucks is closed but if it was open, we can’t get our car out of the garage. The roads are filled with ice. There are no snow plows or salt trucks like there are in other states.

But let’s say we do get our extra-large, heavy-duty, four-wheel drive truck out of the garage. Where are we going to find this vague hotspot? I hear there is a church down the road that has heat and Wi-Fi. Lesson learned: invest in community and civic spaces that are keeping people alive right now.

6) Boil water for at least two minutes to ensure it is safe to drink.

This is taking me back to my travels in Mexico and South America. But in all seriousness, shall we boil this compromised water on our electric stoves? Or on the gas stove, I was told to turn off because people are dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. Instead, we decide to take a brisk walk to the 7-Eleven and buy bottles of water for $2 each. As they say, scarcity creates demand. It also creates greed.

Which is the perfect segue to the privatized grid here in Texas (except in El Paso where people are enjoying their toasty homes). Most of Texas wants to avoid federal regulation and privatization of our grid allows for corporations to profit and people to suffer. But with this privatization came a lot of profits and surely enough to winterize facilities. The lack of regulation and risk analysis has left approximately 2.5 million people without power and 12 million facing water disruption.

When the sun comes out this weekend, the storm of 2021 will be a moment in time forgotten. Until we are reminded in a month when our bills arrive. My question for everyone: is there a roll-out plan? Will a percentage of our payments go to winterizing facilities so this never happens again?

As it is said in “Game of Thrones,” winter is coming, and in almost all states, minus Texas, winter comes every single year. My hope, as a fellow Texan, is that this historical winter storm has opened our eyes to what can happen if we are not prepared. My hope is that through studying this event and the history of our state and grid, we can be the change we wish to see in Texas.


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