It’s by Design: Texas’ Electrical Mess

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By now, you are aware that the problem Texas is having is because they failed to build their system to withstand cold/winter weather. That is the mechanical reason for their problem. Of course, this leads many to assume that as soon as it warms up, the power will be back on and life is good again.

Unfortunately, that does not account for all the water damage that has happened and will happen as broken plumbing thaws. It won’t just be people’s homes. I’m confident there will be news about failures within the municipal systems and of course, failures with the plumbing in the power plants including those that pump the natural gas and cool the nuclear generators. Rebuilding will take months or more.

However, the issue of failure to build the system for the environment is not the real tragedy here. The true horror is the economic model sold to the citizens. Free Market. Yup, that all powerful, God like, invisible hand. Oh…and FREEDOM! Because when you read ex-governor Perry’s statement about Texans being willing to suck it up for 3 more days, you can only assume this system was built for the great Texas secession. Sacrifice for your FREEDOM! Endure that cold! Any day now, it’s going to happen.

It seems that in truth, the electric system is functioning exactly as it was designed to function. High demand. Low supply. High prices to discourage demand. What’s your problem?

I give you: William W. Hogan. Harvard professor of global energy policy at the Kennedy School. “…the architect of the strategy that was adopted by the state seven years ago.”

“…acknowledged that while many Texans have struggled this week without heat and electricity, the state’s energy market has functioned as it was designed.

That design relies on basic economics: When electricity demand increases, so too does the price for power. The higher prices force consumers to reduce energy use to prevent cascading failures of power plants that could leave the entire state in the dark, while encouraging power plants to generate more electricity.

It’s not convenient,” Professor Hogan said. “It’s not nice. It’s necessary.”

It’s not convenient? Is that a statement JFK would have made? Is that attitude what a school named for JFK would be expected to have? Does he/they actually believe JFK was thinking about this kind of policy failure when he state: “ask not what your country can do for you”?

Robert McCullough, of McCullough Research in Portland, Ore., …“What they’ve done is systematic unpreparedness,” … “It was not inadvertent. They planned this outcome.”

Exactly. The failure to consider the effects of deep cold weather on the mechanicals is a line of specification within the plan. The specification was to not consider the deep cold effects.

To complete this sitcom of a reality show, the governor decides to play “governor” and “demand” an investigation. What? Was he not aware of this 7 years ago when the plan was implemented? Of course he was. Typical Republican.

So, lets take an elementary look at this idea of a free market public utility. And I mean elementary as in grade 1 through 6 (yes I’m that old).

We have multiple power generating options to choose from. Don’t like one, pick another. Shop for your best price. You’re free to choose. Built into this utility system is a fixed amount of electricity. It’s not an amount based on the most anticipated need in the highest of heat or deepest of cold. Nope. It’s an average amount shall we say. Just short of what would be real.

Add to this a closed system. No influence from any outside factors. It’s like a science study where you control for one variable: the grid. There is no other grid. The variable: human acting rationally or not. The thesis is that humans will reduce their demand as price rises. The solution to the need for energy conservation.

Do I need to go any further for one to see Prof Hogan’s lunacy? The man used an economic theoretical mathematical model that works on the black board and crammed the state of Texas into it. What he did should be considered professional malpractice if not academic malpractice. Someone in Texas should be asking for their money back.

Let’s break it down further. The “supply” had to be fixed. If it was not, then you would not be able to get the effect of “rational” human behavior that was theorized. Fine, but the fixed supply was not of a level that would reflect a true theorized “free market” where supply increase would happen rapidly enough to meet demand and avoid human catastrophe. That is what we have today in Texas. A human catastrophe. After all, electricity is now necessary for our survival. To not consider it as such would mean the productivity we enjoy today is fictional as in not possible. Bye, bye billionaires.

The grid is fixed. There is no option to choose another grid because the current one is junk! Without that choice there is no free market directive to build a better grid. Of course, building multiple grids from a societal perspective is foolish. Thus that “free market” adage of choice is missing. It is the socialism of the one grid we all enjoy corrupting Hogan’s model and thus experiment. To be true to his ideological blackboard model he would have built multiple grids. Multiple grids in this experiment would look like the other 47 states…interconnectedness. But he didn’t build that in. Maybe because that would have been too much socialism corrupting his model?

He failed to understand all the variables at a minimum and chose to ignore them at worst.

  1. Weather. In this case he saw the positive side of the number line (heat) and failed to see or intentionally ignored the negative direction of the number line (cold). Like an engineer failing to see the specs of a material, the architect failing to see he missed the entire 3rd floor (actually happened in my town’s new middle school), the doctor failing to see the missing pedicle of the vertebra thus missing the cancer (another true event). Are you getting it?
  2. Externalities of when his system and thus model fails such that breakage of the machinery happens to the point that it causes failure of the mechanicals of a house, town, county, state.
  3. Productivity loss. Output loss.

What was actually saved now? Nothing! His greatest failure? Blind loyalty to his ideology thus, missing the social purpose and service of the concept and realization of “public utility”.

When Katrina happened and I watched the Bush response I was horrified. My instant first thought was, I was watching a third world response. This was America! It should not be happening this way. In Texas, we have observed a third world infrastructure. Dare I suggest a throw back to a time in Chili and Hogan’s model? Or Iraq, and Hogan’s model?

It’s not convenient,” Professor Hogan said. “It’s not nice. It’s necessary.”

No! It is disgusting! Unless the Texans and the nation come to understand the true tragedy and cause of this latest human catastrophe, the repairs to Texas will never be adequate to do what electricity can do for securing humanity from the risks of life and living. America will never fully experience that security. Texas will never be complete to wholeness.

One more thing for all those wanting to blame the windmills. Did they forget the time when the mills were producing so much power the price of electricity was negative? They were paying people to take it. Was that a problem?