Power Grids Are Failing All Over America
We can no longer trust our nation’s infrastructure to keep our families safe, happy, and healthy
Last Wednesday, the snow started to fall thick and fast in Denver, Colorado. My kids went to bed hoping for a snow day. They’ve spent most of their childhood in California, and sometimes we had smoke days there. These days were ominous and choking, ash fell from the sky and got stuck in our eyelashes. But snow days? Snow days are sleds and snowmen. My daughter heard that if she wore her pajamas to bed inside out on a snowy night, she’d wake up to a snow day. That night, we all went to bed wearing our pajamas inside out.
We woke to 10 inches of fresh snow. It was a big snowstorm for Denver, our seventh largest February storm since 1874. Breakfast had a festive air. The kids chanted “Snow day! Snow day! Snow day!” as they bundled downstairs to watch Phineas and Ferb. I listened to them chant and thought of the children in Texas who had recently died because of a few snow days. Lights went out, heaters went cold, and frozen pipes burst because the Texas power grid had failed.
The power grid may be abstract to the common houseperson. If we’ve paid our bills, we expect to be able to turn on a light, warm an oven, heat the rooms that house ourselves and our children. After the Texas power grid went down I thought, Should a family be able to pay an electrical bill to have light or water or heat? Are those things that must be earned, or are they a right?
We know that pipes run from a gas facility for miles and miles. They snake under the ground and then spread throughout our community. We know electrical wires hang above us, and run under the ground too. If wind powers some of our electricity, we expect the wind to blow and the turbines to turn and send that power to us. But most people do not know where the pipes run under us, or how the wires connect to our homes. They are a given, like breath. Until they’re not.
In the summer, Texas can produce 86,000 megawatts of power. In the winter, the state’s power plants shut down for maintenance, and production falls to 67,000 megawatts. This winter’s shutdowns were scheduled in advance. What wasn’t planned was a storm cold enough to stop wind turbines from…