Syndicated column: Analysis: In Texas, cold weather brings political chill | Opinion


This week’s cold weather forecast is reminiscent of the blackouts that left millions in the dark during a polar vortex and killed hundreds of Texans last year. It also awakens the memories of politicians during the primary elections.

Many Texans are having chills right now — some because it’s supposed to be cold this week, and others because of memories of what the cold weather brought to the state a year ago this this month.

What’s forecast this week — a few days of hard frost, with some precipitation in parts of the state — is milder than the polar vortex that froze most of Texas for consecutive days. The high demands for heat and light during this storm exceeded the available electricity supply, which was diminished by the effects of the storm on power plants and their fuel suppliers.

Chances are you won’t lose power this time. Wouldn’t you like it to be a certainty?

Senior state leaders are also hoping for no power loss, and their concerns go beyond the power grid that covers most of the state.

The past two weeks have been harbingers of the political year to come, starting with a gaggle of Republicans holding press conferences at the Texas-Mexico border and ending with Democrats talking about cold weather and the power grid .

Republicans blame a Democratic administration in Washington, DC, for the huge increase in the number of people trying to enter the United States over the past year. Democrats blame the Republican government in this energy state for the failure of the power grid last year, causing outages that left millions without power for days in freezing temperatures and killed hundreds of Texans. Both parties want you to believe that the sky is falling and the other party has broken it.

Now comes the litmus test. Texas forecasters say cold weather is coming in the next few days. On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott rounded up the people you see behind the tables every time the weather turns bad, talking about preparations for the storm and including, for this weather event, some of the city’s electricity and natural gas regulators. ‘State.

In late November, Abbott wished just like us when he told Fox 7 News in Austin that “I can guarantee the lights will stay on.” His office and appointees reinforced that confident pride with a year-end public relations campaign.

They are confident that the electric generators have been winterized and that their fuel sources – mainly natural gas – will not be hampered by the cold as they were a year ago.

But this governor’s guarantee, as questionable as it is, is void.

“No one can guarantee there won’t be a ‘shedding’ event,” Abbott said Tuesday. Load shedding is the term used to shut off power to groups of customers in order to keep demand below supply; it’s a power outage.

The governor does not expect a repeat of last year. He finally nods to reality: demand for electricity could exceed supply; trees could fall and rip transmission lines; it was still highly unlikely that any place in the state would go dark for a few hours and maybe a few days.

Texans are nervous about this. Our memories of last year’s frozen blackout are still fresh. And there’s a primary election right next door: voters are able to note the governor’s diary after this cold weather and others this month. Early voting begins February 14 and the primary is March 1.

The political situation is at the bottom of the list of things that normal people worry about. They want to stay warm and safe, and their confidence in that regard was shaken by last year’s storm.

It is evident, however, in the build-up to this week’s cold spell. The governor, who is on the Republican primary ballot and has been busy with border press conferences, TV ads, fundraisers and everything in between, has assembled the officials and regulators who will get the credit if the lights and the heat stay on, and blame them if they don’t. They were reassuring, saying they were ready for the cold and whatever it might bring.

Democrats are also gearing up for politics this part of the winter. Beto O’Rourke, the best-known of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, is taking part in what he calls a ‘keep the lights on’ tour, hoping voters will hold Abbott accountable for what happened last year. , and hoping that the cold temperatures will reignite their anger .

There’s a lot of power at play – both types.

Ross Ramsey is editor and co-founder of The Texas Tribune. Prior to joining the Tribune, he was editor and co-owner of the Texas Weekly for 15 years. It can be emailed to


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