The world was surprised by the unfamiliar images and scenes broadcast from the state of Texas due to the unusual snowstorm, which revealed a significant deterioration in infrastructure in one of the largest and richest US states, where the average annual income is about $ 60,000, which is the second largest state, and is located in the middle of the half The country has a population of 30 million.
The phrase "Texas scandal" has become a title for what the state witnessed in a few days of unprecedented events, in light of investigations being conducted at the federal, state and provincial levels, in order to search for the causes that led to this scandal in a state known as the "global energy capital."
Millions of Texas residents were cut off from electricity, and clean water was not available to them at the same time, dozens died and hundreds sought refuge in hospitals or hotels, and thousands were displaced.
how did that happen?
Texas is classified within the warm states throughout the winter months, and the average temperature in February is between 9 and 11 degrees Celsius, but the temperature decreased with the exposure of the state to a snowy winter storm, and it reached below zero (minus 15 degrees) in some areas. Large quantities of snow fell, water froze inside the pipes, and millions of electricity were cut off, and experts said that this storm is one of the most costly natural disasters this year.
He comes to Al-Jazeera Net Hisham Abdel Aziz, an Egyptian-American teacher living in the suburbs of the city of Houston in the state. “What happened exceeded everything we imagined. We knew in advance that there was a storm and a drop in temperatures, but no one imagined this level. We live in Texas, and we do not live. In Minnesota. "
Snow caused a complete blackout in some areas of Texas, and several factors caused this, and resulted in the failure to meet the needs of millions of consumers, who rushed to heat their homes that were not prepared, like the homes of the North, to face the strong snowstorms.
Typically Texas experiences its peak energy use in the summer months, and the state's electrical grid relies heavily on natural gas, which becomes difficult to obtain during the winter.
The snowstorm caused a decrease in the production of all available energy sources, and reached a stoppage in some sources, and there was no exception, whether it was natural gas, coal, nuclear energy or renewable energy such as wind.
A separate electricity network
In addition, Texas is the only state among the fifty states that operates its own electricity grid, and this means that it is not subject to federal regulations that may have forced it to prepare for harsh conditions like this.
The blackout varied from one region to another in the state, but it reached an average of 3 days, and residents resorted to wearing several layers of clothes, and millions of people ate foods that did not need to be cooked on stoves.
Harris County, where Houston is located, has recorded more than 300 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning due to some people trying to heat their homes by inserting grills and generators, and using them in their homes.
The Texas scandal was not limited to the energy sector, as water froze inside pipes and networks that connected it to homes, and local authorities warned of the possibility of water contamination if it was available, and directives were issued requiring boiling water before use, or using bottled water when available.
Citizen Abdulaziz returned to say that he was able to go early and buy several boxes of canned water and food from a famous store before it closed its doors.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has tried to blame Democrats for what is happening to his state by attacking initiatives to use renewable energy sources, rather than admitting poor infrastructure and unpreparedness for such a scenario.
"The state that prides itself on producing energy has left millions of its citizens freezing in the dark. This is a crime," House Representative James Talarico wrote in a tweet.
"I was without electricity for 30 hours, this is not a natural disaster, but years of lack of investment, deregulation and neglect," he added.
A state that prides itself on energy production left millions of its citizens to freeze in the dark.
It's not just incompetent;
The Texas Legislature must hold hearings, demand answers, and ensure this never happens again.
- James Talarico (@jamestalarico) February 16, 2021
To aggravate the situation of Texas is that its electrical network is separated from the networks of the eastern or western states, in order to avoid government regulations, and as a result Texas failed to import electricity from outside its borders.
Electricity and water companies
Private companies own and manage the electricity and water sector in Texas, and they seek only profit, at a time when they cannot be required to do what governments should do to provide energy and water at low prices to citizens.
Due to the crisis and the shortage of supply, electricity prices were subjected to a system of "pricing according to market needs."
With the scarcity of available electrical energy due to the storm, electricity bills rose to thousands of dollars, and the average cost of consumption for the middle class - who used to have bills ranging between $ 150 and $ 200 - doubled to receive $ 3,000 bills, so the state governor had to order electricity companies to stop sending bills. To consumers.
"The greed of the capitalist model is the reason behind what the state has witnessed during the past few days," says an academic professor, who declined to be named, who works at the University of Texas in Austin, DC.
He adds that energy company managers "receive millions of dollars in annual salaries and incentives, while the middle class is left to face its fate alone with crises."
He added, "My family and I had a bitter experience for 3 days, and fortunately we did not have to buy more food, but the experience of losing electricity at home, and the lack of heating, was very painful, and we had to use all our blankets and sheets."
The academic continued his complaints, "The water was cut off for one day during which we did not brush our teeth. The next day we did not use water for drinking or cooking. We depend on bottled water as advised by the authorities."
It is still too early to determine the size of the losses suffered by Texas, but it is certain that the process of delivering and administering the emerging corona virus vaccine has stopped, and more than a million citizens of the state have lost the opportunity to receive the vaccination in the past few days.
After the snow melts, the state will need to face two important questions. First: Did it need to increase the size of the available reserves of energy?
Who will pay the cost of future investment in modernizing electricity networks?
To the Egyptian-born teacher responds, "In the end, the cost will be distributed to consumers like us, and without further investment in electricity networks, power cuts will recur in the future, and this is not what anyone wishes."