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Texas' Perry: Enduring blackouts is better than federal regulations

Rick Perry wants Texans, who may be wondering whether their status quo is a wise approach, to resist the temptation to go in a more effective direction.
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry speaks on Nov. 5, 2019 in Washington.
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry speaks on Nov. 5, 2019 in Washington.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

Millions of Texans remain stuck in misery today, as much of the state struggles with power blackouts, a lack of running water, and freezing temperatures. But as the Houston Chronicle reported, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) wants state residents to consider how conditions could be worse: Texas could, the Republican said, be part of the United States' energy system.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry suggests that going days without power is a sacrifice Texans should be willing to make if it means keeping federal regulators out of the state's power grid. In a blog posted on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's website, Perry is quoted responding to the claim that "those watching on the left may see the situation in Texas as an opportunity to expand their top-down, radical proposals."

The former governor was also quoted saying, "Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business. Try not to let whatever the crisis of the day is take your eye off of having a resilient grid that keeps America safe personally, economically, and strategically."

Perry, who also served as Donald Trump's Energy Secretary, added, "If wind and solar is where we're headed, the last 48 hours ought to give everybody a real pause and go wait a minute."

So, a few things.

First, as Perry really ought to understand by now, blaming renewable energy for Texas' ongoing crisis is demonstrably ridiculous.

Second, the former governor's insistence that Texas has "a resilient grid" is belied by the state's repeated energy breakdowns. It was exactly 10 years ago this month when the Lone Star State faced another rough winter, which Texas' power grid couldn't handle: demand for power spiked, and in 2011, just like in 2021, the system couldn't keep up. The same thing happened in 1989, too.

After the 2011 breakdown -- Rick Perry had been governor for about a decade at that point -- the nation's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission prepared a lengthy report on what went wrong, explaining to state officials that Texas' energy infrastructure simply wasn't designed well to handle harsh winter conditions. FERC made recommendations on improvements, warning Texas that systemic collapses would almost certainly happen again.

State officials ignored the warnings -- because they could. Texas has an independent grid that frees the state from the "burdens" of federal safeguards.

Indeed, the cruelty of Perry's comments this week is rooted in the idea that Texans facing crisis conditions should be thankful right now that their state has its own independent system of power. In the continental United States, every state has to answer to federal regulators -- except Texas, which goes its own way. (Note, other states in the region are experiencing similar weather conditions this week, but they're not struggling to the same extent.)

And so, when the state's power grid suffers systemic breakdowns, and FERC explains how to prevent similar crises in the future, officials in Texas have the luxury of saying in effect, "Thanks, but no thanks. We'd rather have blackouts than federal safeguards."

It's against this backdrop that Rick Perry wants Texans, who may be wondering right now whether their status quo is a wise approach, to resist the temptation to go in a more effective direction. Once this crisis subsides, it'll be interesting to see just how much of the state agrees.