Spirited Reasoners can be forgiven for their ignorance, prior to the events of last week, of the parochial nature of the Texas power grid. “What?” they ask. “You mean to say that of the 48 contiguous states south of Canada, only Texas maintains a system unregulated by the federal government? How could such a thing be allowed to happen?”
Chalk it up to a lingering desire among many southerners to secede from the union.
Does that last sentence sound a bit harsh?
We learned (or should have learned) in our high school civics class that the U. S. Constitution is a document that bestows only limited powers to the federal government. The remaining powers are reserved to the states or to the people. The clause most often used to claim federal power is the Interstate Commerce Clause, which allows Congress to regulate commerce that crosses state lines.
So, what did Texans do to ensure that Franklin Roosevelt’s Federal Power Act of 1935 could not be used to regulate their precious power grid? They passed state laws designed to ensure that Texas power remained strictly within that state’s borders.
The rest is history. Especially the events of this past week, when the average citizen of Texas discovered that bordering states could do nothing in the way of supplying excess power—the way fire departments in one state often help those of another during wildfire season.
What makes the original Texas attitude so pathetic is that it hurts the very people it was intended to help. For those who argue that Texans have enjoyed cheaper electrical energy for years because of their unique system, Spirited Reasoners point to the facts.
You can find a good state comparison of electrical rates at the following website: https://neo.ne.gov/programs/stats/inf/204.htm
What you’ll see is that electrical rates in Texas are indeed low, but not lower than the surrounding states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, all of which chose to tie into federally regulated interstate grids. If federal regulation is linked to higher energy prices, how can those three states have rates lower than those in Texas?
So, what did Texans gain from their desire to break free from the rest of us, I mean those of us who are happy to call ourselves Americans? They gained 100% responsibility for the disaster caused by their government’s inability to address a foreseeable natural disaster when it occurred.
But, you argue, aren’t many of the problems related to the breakage of water lines due to ice, rather than lack of electricity? Had the electricity stayed on, the heat in many of those buildings would have prevented the lines from freezing.
Never mind all that. People from across this great nation will be reaching out to help ordinary Texans as they grapple to overcome their enormous hardships. President Biden has declared a national emergency, allowing Texas to benefit from federal aid (i. e., aid coming from all Americans, not just Texans), this despite the unwillingness of Texas to participate in a federal regulatory system that could have mitigated their disaster.