So, About Texas

The present freeze and energy crisis in Texas are significantly unpleasant. A fair number of people are about to die because neither the state, nor the infrastructure, nor the citizens are prepared for what is an extremely rare weather event.

There’s a reason for this: Texas is HOT.

No, obviously not now, Smartass. But in general, the majority of Texas is tolerable in the winter and inhumanly hot in the summer. General Sheridan once famously remarked that if he owned Hell and Texas, he’d rent out Texas and live in Hell — presumably because it’s a dry heat. The houses are designed to expel warmth, not retain it. People don’t have secondary heating sources because they would never use them — or, OK, almost never.

It’s like snow plows: Texas doesn’t invest heavily in these, because Texas doesn’t get much in the way of snow. If they did, no doubt they’d have stockpiles of sand and salt and a large number of massive plows — but they don’t. So if they did in fact invest in plow equipment, it would sit idle thirty-nine years out of forty and need to be replaced due to age rather than wear. Trained plow drivers would sit at home every winter saying things like, “It’s a tough job, but — better to be safe than sorry.”

Now, yes, it’s pretty silly to have no spare electrical capacity in their grid , and most of the time they’re fine with that. They’ve got copious natural gas supplies that, once tapped, can either be burned or dumped into the atmosphere — so, as is perfectly reasonable, they burn as much as they can both at home and in their power generators. Much of Texas is tree-free, so there’d be no real benefit to wood-fired plants; the same goes for coal. There are wind turbines, but they’re notoriously unreliable, so it wouldn’t make any sense to winterize them. As for winterizing natural gas wells… To be honest, most of them would be depleted before any of that expensive insulation would ever come in handy.

What would make sense — and what Texas will doubtless do starting in the spring — would be some reserve oil plants that are designed to sit idle much of the time. At present, they’re running at maximum production for every plant with fuel; they’re simply out of natural gas due to the insane temperatures. Some structures that are presently open to the weather may end up getting enclosed — or maybe not; cooling in the summer is usually the deciding factor. There are also a few changes they could make in their code — burying pipes deeper, for example, in case this happens again — but not so many as you might think.

While it stinks, this is just one of those things that happens every forty to fifty years, like deadly heat waves in the northeast, where nobody has air conditioners.

Now, one thing the average Texan might consider is to winterize their home plumbing and come up with a backup heating source in case this happens again next year. Then again, they might not; after all, that sort of thing is expensive. But they will have the ability to make an informed decision on these matters themselves.

Similarly, they have full power over their own local energy grid. Certainly they’ll make some changes going forward, but I’d wager not many. After all, they chose to have the system they’ve got, and for some very good reasons. Even after some freak weather happens, those reasons won’t have changed.

So quit giving Texas a hard time already; just because they vote Republican doesn’t make them evil. And, while we’re at it, stop trying to buy their votes — they weren’t born yesterday.

If you’re interested in doing something to help people rather than just sitting back and doomscrolling, permit me to recommend Direct Relief, one of the highest-rated charitable organizations in existence. Unlike the Red Cross, all they do is give free aid to those in need.

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