Open Thread

So apparently the Texas electrical grid came close to failing completely during the severe weather that hit a large part of the country two weeks ago. Geoff Beckman wrote an article in Counterpunch about how and why the Texas grid failed while the other two grids in the country did not.

The Texas power grid is run by ERCOT; The Electric Reliability Council of Texas. It sounds like we were running at an unsafe capacity and that the power had to be shut down. Beckman explains the danger of running the generators connected to the grid at higher capacity than the maximum safe level this way;

"Here is a scary thought. Remember what happened to the boiler in the book version of The Shining when it ran at 90% in the last chapter?"

By noon February 14th, it seems demand for power was dangerously high, "ERCOT realized they couldn't meet demand." "They simply shut off power to every zone that didn't have a hospital located within it."

The article is critical of ERCOT and deservedly so, but he says this as well;

Texas just showed what can happen anywhere, given a few shocks to the system.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/26/when-power-grids-secede-what-hap...

Richard Wolff weighs in with his emphasis on the failure of capitalism to be able to ensure that the needs of the people are met. He also talks about the WIC, the Western Interconnection, specifically parts of the California grid and their episode with Enron. The California electricity customers got to pay higher rates for the Enron scam.

(11 minutes)

Jeffrey St. Clair had a great article in Counterpunch on the revolting corruption in our energy sector in general. His story starts in the '90s and covers a few of the crimes.

In the summer of 1994, while Clinton vacationed in the Tetons, just down the trout stream from Dick Cheney’s ranch, 8 top oil executives dropped in for a visit. This confab in Jackson Hole became Clinton’s version of the Cheney energy task force. The oil moguls pressed Clinton for a number of concessions: 1. Increased drilling on the Outer Contintental Shelf, especially in the Gulf of Mexico; 2. A break on royalty payments; 3. Expedited leasing for coal-bed methane the Rocky Mountain Front; 4. Opening the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to drilling; 5. Removal of the ban on export of Alaskan crude oil to overseas refineries.

He also mentions the Enron heist in California.

One of the big concerns raised by consumer advocates and environmentalists about deregulation was the issue of reliability. Would private companies, driven solely by the profit motive, have an incentive to maintain powerlines and powerplants to keep them in working order? Yes, said Cavanagh. It turned out quite differently. The companies actually had an incentive to turn the plants off at the precise moment demand was at a peak. In one of the tape recorded conversations, two Enron executives are heard plotting to raise prices by shutting down a steamer at a power plant.

“I was wondering, um, the demand out there is er … there’s not much, ah, demand for power at all and we’re running kind of fat,” one executive complains. “Um, if you took down the steamer, how long would it take to get it back up?”

“Oh, it’s not something you want to just be turning on and off every hour. Let’s put it that way,” another Enron employee replies.

“If we shut it down, could you bring it back up in three ? three or four hours, something like that?” the executive asks.

“Oh, yeah,” the other says.

“Well, why don’t you just go ahead and shut her down, then, if that’s OK,” David says.

The Enron traders loved the blackouts, because that meant they could cash in on the sky-rocketing prices helpless consumers were forced to pay. “Just cut ’em off,” one Enron executive said. "

When wildfires threatened to incinerate powerlines and an electric transfer stations, the Enron traders could be heard singing, “Burn, baby, burn.”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/21/power-plays-the-bipartisan-origi...

Guy Standing talks about the plunder of the commons. A Charter in Great Britain called The Charter of the Forest, was created in 1217 to set aside land to be safeguarded for the use of the people. This law held for 800 years (with some struggles and losses) and influenced the defining of the American Constitution later. "The agenda of the Neoliberals has been eroding the principle of the commons." "They have been allowing the privatization of community property". Not only does this contribute to poverty but also destroys the environment for profit.

The first 15 minutes are the most relevant in this video.

Photo: Winter in Yellowstone, Wyoming. National Park Service

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Lookout's picture

hope you and your family "weathered" the storm comfortably.

Read somewhere G.H.W. Bush started the electrical deregulation ball rolling. Found it. It was Greg Palast piece...
https://www.gregpalast.com/texas-gets-layd-how-the-bush-family-turned-of...

The quest for ever more profit leads to dysfunction. I wonder how many Texans are moving toward off-grid production given the situation? Sure makes me grateful for our TVA power.

Thanks for the OT. Be well and have a good one!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout . "Wet-lipped huckster", Cancun cruiser, some kinda politician, used-car salesman.
Thanks for the link, good read. Back in the day Palast was all over election snafus. I don't think he was wrong. This is in part why there can be a case to be made about being confident in the integrity of our electoral system (or not). It doesn't matter whether red or blue....same problem.

We've all been 'weathered' a little more, down here in TX. Doing OK though, thanks Smile

Some surprises as to which plants survived the freeze. Dill, fennel, Italian parsley, etc..
Most surprising of all was that my 2 pots of micro-greens , which I didn't even cover(!!)... made it through.
Have a good one l.o., take care.

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QMS's picture

Great shot of Yellow Stone.
As vulture capitalism eats the American Dream Delusion
Seems taking back the means of production becomes more critical.

Thanks for the OT Rand!

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@QMS , to the vultures eating dreams. Turn into slime mold as suggested below? Do vultures like slime? or are vultures slime? Power to the slime? Don't know.
Have a good one, take care.

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QMS's picture

@randtntx

vultures in government

here we have *commisions*
not yet all bought-out
still have some teeth
belonging to the voters
answerable to actions
or lack there-of

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Raggedy Ann's picture

I just watched the Wolff video - how are the people going to pay those bills? Will TX forgive them or allow them to devastate?

Enjoy the day! Pleasantry

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The UFO’s are coming to unify us.

@Raggedy Ann during the lunch hour tomorrow. I might have some answers about those high energy costs afterwards. The class is specifically about how to legally handle this very issue.

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Raggedy Ann's picture

@on the cusp . Glad to hear you are involved in this. Pleasantry

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The UFO’s are coming to unify us.

@on the cusp you are doing that. I hope there is some justice.

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@Raggedy Ann , to pay those bills. It is just impossible. It's not a good scenario. I really don't know what will happen and it's very concerning.

Hope you are doing well, have a good one.

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enhydra lutris's picture

There is something completely wrong with putting necessities and near necessities in the hands of corporations. By nature they are monopolitic and amoral and are all but forbidden by law to take public benefit or public welfare into consideration under any circumstances. They have now devolved into the equivalent of a creeping slime mold or something akin to the blob, internalizing all resources they can while externalizing all costs that they can and leaving a trail of waste and pollution behind them. Operating strictly according to dollar valued dost-benefit computations, they don't even feel compelled to obey the law. Texas gave us an example of what me may expectg for the future of everything unless we find ways to rein them in.

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

lotlizard's picture

@enhydra lutris  
They’re the original “Wobblies”—individuals capable of joining together and acting as one big union organism, when circumstances require.

https://www.qwant.com/?q=slime%20mold%20movies&t=videos

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@lotlizard , that's a whole lot of slime mold vids. My education is lacking, I'm not up on slime mold at all.
Are you calling us slime mold by any chance? I have no objection (I think...not exactly sure).
If slime mold can teach us how to be as effective as Wobblies, well then.

Have a good one, hope your weather is warming up a bit over there across the pond.

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enhydra lutris's picture

@lotlizard
analogy/visualization.

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

@enhydra lutris . Unfortunately, you are right, these people "internalizing all resources they can while externalizing all costs that they can and leave a trail of waste and pollution behind them." It looks like they won't stop until they've turned the place into an open sewer, just as they have done in the UK as Guy Standing points out in the vid posted.

According to him, the rivers and streams in the UK were bought by foreign companies (some from the US) and then used to dump sewage in. There are now no rivers in the UK where you can safely drink the water or even swim. Sounds pleasant to me. The water supply in the UK is now not owned by Brits but by some international conglomerate. So much for the commons.

Have a good one el, thanks for stopping by.

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RantingRooster's picture

if the electrical outage didn't get you, COVID surly will now that Gov. Abbott has rescinded all COVID 19 restriction in Texas starting March 10.

from WSWS.Org

exas Governor Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will end a statewide mask mandate on March 10 and will simultaneously lift all coronavirus-related restrictions on business operations. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves followed suit, declaring that as of March 3, all restrictions in the state are now “recommendations.”

“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Abbott declared, asserting that “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.” He continued that he was rescinding “most of the executive orders” regarding the pandemic and that “all businesses of any type are allowed to open 100 percent.”

How is it legal for a governor to violate CDC guidelines and it not be considered criminal negligence during a lethal pandemic?

Shit, Texans suck at masking up and social distancing, at least in my neck of the woods! The employees at RacTrack wear masks but not covering their noses and the people that go inside don't understand what 6ft is. Heck, they don't know that in the grocery stores either.

This is SOCIAL MURDER!

Crazy

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C99, my refuge from an insane world. #ForceTheVote

mimi's picture

@RantingRooster

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RantingRooster's picture

@mimi This is from the BMJ, British Medical Journal.

After two million deaths, we must have redress for mishandling the pandemic

Murder is an emotive word. In law, it requires premeditation. Death must be deemed to be unlawful. How could “murder” apply to failures of a pandemic response? Perhaps it can’t, and never will, but it is worth considering. When politicians and experts say that they are willing to allow tens of thousands of premature deaths for the sake of population immunity or in the hope of propping up the economy, is that not premeditated and reckless indifference to human life? If policy failures lead to recurrent and mistimed lockdowns, who is responsible for the resulting non-covid excess deaths? When politicians wilfully neglect scientific advice, international and historical experience, and their own alarming statistics and modelling because to act goes against their political strategy or ideology, is that lawful? Is inaction, action?1 How big an omission is not acting immediately after the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January 2020?

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C99, my refuge from an insane world. #ForceTheVote

@RantingRooster , like I'm running the gauntlet on a daily basis. Are we living in a bad sci-fi movie?

This seems increasingly like a Gregor Samsa situation, just too Kafkaesque. I don't like what this is morphing into. Smile

Take care, I'm sorry if you are in TX, it seems like not a good place to be.

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QMS's picture

@randtntx

This is definitely a bad episode of the twilit zone.
The way it's presented in the medium
we have been invaded by space lords
our only option is to accept and behave Wink

Where is Captain Crunch when you need him?

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@QMS , he's being very elusive. He is just not reliable, kind of like our unreliable grid board.

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QMS's picture

@randtntx

have the citizens of the texan republic
have no recompense? There should be a
legal vehicle to hold those 'responsible'
to respond to the failure of the public trust.

Class action otc?

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@QMS I will see what the remedies might be. That is what the class will address tomorrow. Right now, I could not say one way or another, if ERCOT is under a legal duty to have concerns about anything but corporate profit. They may have government immunity, although they are not exactly a government entity.
I hope they will have a question and answer session after the lecture.

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@QMS , of hope and change.

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magiamma's picture

Thanks for the ot and the dive into the power failure in tx.

This just came into my box. One of our recalled city councilors (recalled by a huge well funded campaign run by the CA apartment association) is now the director for The Selma Jubilee.

https://www.selmajubilee.com/single-post/reflections-on-politics-race-an...

Take good care y’all !!

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Stop Climate Change Silence - Start the Conversation

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@magiamma , it was a dive, I'm still floundering around in the depths. Smile

That's interesting about the Selma jubilee, Harry Belafonte is one of the star attractions. My Mom had a bunch of his records when I was a kid and we all listened to them frequently. I have always liked him.

Hope you're doing well.

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