Texas' energy grid stands on its own, isolated from the rest of the country and unable to import power from other states. That means "when it comes to electricity, what happens in Texas stays in Texas," Dan Cohan, an associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University, tells CNN. "That has really come back to bite us." Indeed, Reuters reports that wholesale electricity prices spiked 10,000% on Monday to more than $9,000 per megawatt hour, up from less than $50 per megawatt hours prior to the storm. Expect wide-ranging consequences from the weather, including for the country's vaccine rollout. More:
- Texas is "the energy powerhouse of America," producing almost twice as much electricity as the next-closest state of Florida, per CNN. It also leads in crude oil and natural gas, and produces more than a quarter of the nation’s wind-powered electricity. Unfortunately, much of this infrastructure isn't winterized.
- "The entire Texas system from the wellhead to the electric meter on a home is more designed to deal with multiple 100 degree days than multiple single-digit days," the president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association tells Reuters. Wind turbines lacking heating elements have frozen, as have water facilities used by natural gas, coal-fired, and nuclear power plants.
- Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat, is blaming a lack of preparation by Republican leaders. "So much of this was avoidable," he said Tuesday, per the Hill, noting the "deregulation of our electric grid here in Texas … has actually created an incentive to not weatherize or protect against these events."
- Gov. Greg Abbott has called for an investigation into the nonprofit Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state's power grid. Some 2.7 million households in Texas were still without power Wednesday morning, per the AP. Rolling blackouts have been imposed in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi to ease the burden on grids.
- US oil prices have topped $60 a barrel for the first time in more than a year. Reuters notes the storm has "knocked out roughly 4 million barrels per day of refining capacity, more than one-fifth of national capacity." It adds it could be weeks before refineries are back to normal operations.
- At least 20 people have died as a result of the winter storm, per the AP. A grandmother and three young children died in a Houston fire after flames escaped their fireplace. Carbon monoxide poisoning has been blamed for other deaths, including those of a family of four in Portland, Oregon.
- Lemurs, monkeys, and a chimpanzee also died after a San Antonio wildlife sanctuary lost power amid single-digit temperatures. "I never, ever thought my office would turn into a morgue, but it has," its executive director tells the AP. More than 3,500 "cold-stunned" sea turtles are being treated near South Padre Island, per the Washington Post.
- As for how one Texas resident is handling things, not well. "I cannot do this," says Brianna Blake, a 31-year-old mother of two who moved to Texas from Ohio this summer after her family's home was hit by a tornado. "To go through all of that [stuff with the pandemic] and then also to have stuff like this happen, it's like, 'One more historical event, and I'm going to develop PTSD,'" she tells the Texas Tribune.
- Speaking of the pandemic, "the US government is projecting widespread delays in COVID-19 vaccine shipments and deliveries over the next few days," a CDC rep tells the Post, which describes delays at Southeast distribution hubs.
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