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Republicans defend energy deregulation as new report says Texas consumers overpay by $28 billion for power

From Biden to the Green New Deal, GOP officials are finding all sorts of things to blame besides the state’s deregulated energy market for soaring rates and rolling blackouts

Chris Riotta
New York
Wednesday 24 February 2021 19:44
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Many Texans who enjoyed access to power during the deadly winter storm crisis earlier this month have since seen their electricity bills skyrocket to astronomical rates, with some reporting receiving thousands of dollars in charges.

But a new report says consumers in the state have been overpaying for power since 2004, when Texas began deregulating its industries and shifted away from full-service regulated utilities for the vast majority of residents. 

Instead, many opted to pay spot prices for electricity rather than the traditional fixed rates — causing some bills to surge as demand increased during the unprecedented weather emergency last week. 

After Texas moved away from a regulated energy market, the Wall Street Journal reported consumers paid $28 billion more for power than they would have under traditional rates. What’s more, experts now say that rollback of regulations led to the failures in the state’s majority-independent power system seen during the weather crisis, which included rolling blackouts for millions of residents. 

The state’s winter storms have led to potential challenges in food and water supply as countless residents received high energy bills as a result of the power outages. However, Republican leaders and prominent Texas conservatives continued to herald the state’s deregulation of the local energy market. 

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a blog post that Texans prefer the massive rolling blackouts seen during the winter storms to further government oversight of their energy market.

“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,” the governor wrote in his blog post last week. “We need to have a baseload. And the only way you can get a baseload in this country is [with] natural gas, coal, and nuclear.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other GOP officials in the state have decried the Green New Deal amid questions about the state’s energy failures during the winter crisis, despite the Green New Deal not actually having been passed by Congress or the state legislature. 

He claimed “the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America” in a Fox News interview during the rolling blackouts and said wind and solar energy losses “thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power in a statewide basis.”

The majority of power lost amid the storms was in fact from thermal energy sources like gas and coal, according to local energy officials and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Renewable energy resources like wind and solar power made up a much smaller slice of the power that went offline during the power outages — about a third, reports indicated. 

Pressed over his attacks of the Green New Deal despite evidence showing the power lost was mostly from nonrenewable energy sources, the governor said: “I was asked a question on one TV show about renewable, and I responded to that question.”

Texas Republicans have also been known to mock other state officials during energy crises, including Senator Ted Cruz (R—TX), who attacked California’s conservation efforts in a tweet that read: “Hope you don’t like air conditioning!”

Mr Cruz faced immense blowback over his decision to flee his home state of Texas during the rolling blackouts and weather crisis this month for a tropical vacation with friends and family in Cancun. 

Rep Dan Crenshaw (R—TX) also quipped about California’s energy failures during the state’s rolling blackouts in 2020, writing in a tweet: “Alexa, show me what happens when you let Democrats control energy policy.”

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