The recent deadly Arctic blast has demonstrated that partisan point-scoring in the midst of the crisis does nothing to help those confronting a deadly disaster, but leadership and cooperation can mitigate its effects.
Sadly, some were quick to leverage the storm that locked the center of the United States in an icy vise to service political goals. As people were beginning to die, some newspapers and political commentators thought it important to blame — falsely — green energy for the electrical grid outages that threatened hard-hit Texas. The Texas governor decided to blame the blackouts on a bugaboo — illusory regulations under a nonexistent Green New Deal. Others were quick to blame the group that oversees the independent power grid in Texas for the problem or to attack utilities for failing to quickly shut down industrial power consumers as demand spiked in our region.
None of the blaming and balderdash saved a single life. It didn’t warm homes, provide water or keep families safe. Politicians often exploit events for partisan advantage, but the middle of a brutal polar cold snap is precisely the wrong time to engage in such posturing.
Not that questions shouldn’t be raised. An investigation is needed. If mistakes were made, they must be acknowledged and corrected; misguided assumptions must be corrected. We must examine what happened in order to find ways to minimize damage and injury in the next crisis. And don’t be fooled: Another will come.
Will we be ready? Are we willing to act as we recover from this disaster to prepare for the next — to require reserve capacity, to harden equipment for more extreme weather, and to make preparations?
To prepare will require clear-eyed awareness of the potential storms to come, the will to act and the resolve to fund infrastructure changes required. Assumptions about how cold it will get need to conform to our new reality. Expectations regarding drought, wildfires, flooding, wind speeds and storms must be adapted to the latest projections on the more violent and extreme weather we face. It will require builders and industries to follow sensible new standards, either voluntarily or through regulation. Our region must begin to build to withstand the more extreme weather events that are expected — and that we have been seeing.
We need to review, revamp and upgrade our nation’s power grid. Texas should reconsider its unwillingness to connect to the Western power grid. Our nation needs to fund more research into reliable means to store and release excess power as it is generated and then implement those means. It is time for state and federal investment in infrastructure to harden it to the new extremes we are seeing.
As the storm departed here, another struck the Northeast. These storms are costing more lives and billions of dollars as once-in-a-lifetime disasters become every-other-year disasters.
Now is the time for keen analysis and forthright action.