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Electric grid – Federal excuse for interdependence

Eighteen Democrats want the federal government to place another hook in Texas by taking over its electric grid. Texas should say NO.

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The federal government, in its continued psychological and ideological war with Texas, knows it has a problem. Since the Texas Annexation of 1845, Texans have always considered themselves a nation-state apart, in federal union for convenience only. That convenience has been mainly for protection, beginning with the Mexican War or “Mr. Polk’s War.” (Any war is “Mr. President’s War” to those who oppose it, any President waging it, or both.) But now the federal government has reneged on the very premise of continued Texas union. Democratic Members of Congress know this, and have come up with a new excuse to entice Texas to stay in the Union. That excuse is the creation of a single, continent-wide electric grid. But doing so would be not only unconstitutional but the opposite of what electric infrastructure planners should be doing.

Overview of the nation’s electric grid

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) maintains all electric grid interconnections in North America. This map illustrates them:

North American electric grid regions north of Mexico (and ouside of Inuit Nunaangat)
Interconnections (dotted lines) and regional reliability councils. Map courtesy Claude Boucher; CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License

Four big electric grid interconnections serve the continental United States, and Canada south of Inuit Nunaangat and Yukon. They are the Eastern, Western, Quebec, and Texas Interconnections. In 2009, various authorities laid plans to build a new Tres Amigas Superstation, in a triangular region with Roswell and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Amarillo, Texas at its corners. It was to use superconductors that could carry 5 GW of electric power. But to date no one has started construction.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the Texas Interconnection, which covers 90 percent of the State of Texas. At present, the western tip of El Paso County lies within the Western Interconnection, and the northwestern half of the Texas Panhandle, plus two regions in eastern Texas, lie within the Eastern. The Western Interconnection also extends south of California for a short distance into Mexico (specifically, Baja California Del Norte).

In 2021, the Texas electric grid famously shut down. An usually harsh winter froze wind turbine blades, covered solar panels, and cooled natural gas pumps to a non-functioning point. That incident struck fear into Texas hearts – Texas had suffered blackouts before, but none like this. The Texas Nationalist Movement blames federal subsidies that encouraged wind power at the expense of fossil-fueled power.

Texas Democrats team up with The Squad

Sandow Lakes Energy is planning to build a new natural-gas plant that will generate 1.2 GW of power. Interestingly, this plant will exactly replace the generating capacity of a 1.2 GW coal-fired plant that shut down in 2018.


But Rep. Greg Casar (D-Austin/San Antonio) has another idea, reflecting his environmentalist leanings. He wants to compel ERCOT to join formally with the Eastern Interconnection at first, then the Western as well. Reportage on his proposal comes from The Hill, KPRC-TV Channel 2 (NBC) of Houston, and The Austin American-Statesman. The Connect the Grid Act would require ERCOT to come under the purview of the Federal Electricity Reliability Commission (FERC). Currently ERCOT is exempt from FERC regulation; this bill would strike that. It would also amend current law to require new transmission, but not generating, capacity as part of a reliability standard. Current law requires neither thing.

Furthermore, the new law would require, as a “priority” in deciding on new transmission capacity, “outreach” to:

  • Tribal and indigenous communities and their government, and
  • “Environmental justice communities.”

The Act defines an environmental justice community as:

a community with significant representation of communities of color, low-income communities, or Tribal and Indigenous communities that experiences, or is at risk of experiencing, higher or more adverse human health or environmental effects.

Timeline and sponsorships

Channel 2 (Houston) teased out this timeline from the bill’s text:

  • No later than 6 months after enactment: FERC convenes a technical conference to explore ways to make the connection happen.
  • One year: ERCOT, the Southwest Power Pool, the Mid-continent Independent System Operator, and one or more neighboring balancing authorities submit a plan that designates entities to construct new transmission facilities, or modify existing transmission facilities.
  • January 1, 2035: all new transmission lines to be in place.

Channel 2 failed to mention one other thing: studying the “benefits” of more connections with Mexico. These would go deeper than the northernmost portion of “Baja del Norte,” though the sponsors gave no details.

Rep. Casar has sponsorships all over Texas – and outside of Texas. Sponsors in the House include Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Al Green (D-Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). Beyond Texas, they include Reps. Troy Carter (D-La.), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-Mo.), Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). They also include Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) – charter members of The Squad. Finally, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has already introduced a Senate version. He and “AOC” routinely collaborate on environmentalist and similar bills.

Rescuing the Texas electric grid – or making it more vulnerable?

In a press release from Rep. Casar, he and several co-sponsors gave the rationale for the Connect the Grid Act. To start with, they presented this legislation as a rescue operation, on these two premises:

  • The Texas Deep Freeze of 2021 (Winter Storm Uri) could happen again, and
  • Only full ties between and among all electric grid interconnections, including the Texas grid, can prevent it.

They also couched their proposal as a benefit to the rest of the country – from surplus solar and wind energy. But that ignores the intermittency of both these methods – which notoriously failed during the 2021 Deep Freeze. Last week, Houston Chronicle Columnist Bill King recommended enlarging generating capacity within Texas. He observed that wind power has heavy federal subsidies – but asserted that solar does not. King also admitted that solar and wind produce abundant cheap power – when the sun shines and the wind blows. Though he mentioned technologies to store electricity, the only such technology he mentioned was battery power. Other methods exist in addition (more below).

But, unable to help themselves, Casar and his colleagues gave their real rationale. They blamed lack of federal regulation for the Deep Freeze and every ill they could invent that Texas is “suffering.” But they also mentioned shortchanging large industrial and commercial users, in the name of “environmental justice.” Terms like “equity” in its various forms peppered their press release.

Texas Nationalist Movement: nothing doing!

The Texas Nationalist Movement yesterday condemned, in no uncertain terms, any connection of the Texas electric grid with other grids.

TNM head Dan Miller said this, in the video embedded above:

Well, if you love what’s happening at the Texas border, then you are absolutely going to love what the federal government wants to do to the Texas power grid. AOC and the poster children for mismanagement and dysfunction in the U.S. Congress want to take control of the Texas power grid. It wasn’t enough for them to push their green energy grift and plunge us into darkness in 2021. Now they want to connect our grid to other States, where rolling blackouts are a way of life. Imagine Snowpocalypse 2021, but every month! And not only that, but their proposal wants to force the Texas grid to connect with Mexico. The federal government can’t even manage the border or federal debt, and now they want to be in charge of your light switch.

It’s time to tell the Feds that we wouldn’t trust them in an outhouse with a muzzle on, and we definitely don’t trust them with our power grid. It is well past time for us to Texit.

Comments to the Channel 2 (Houston) article were almost universally negative. “AOC” especially got calls to stay on her side of the Texas state line and “out of Texas business.” One commenter left this insightful analysis:

Those who think Texas being connected to the other grids in February 2021 [would have solved the problem] seem to forget that those other grids were stressed too. It was a national weather front impacting the entire country, those same people forget that importing energy from too far away involves such inefficiencies as to negate most of the benefit.

Not to sound like a conspiracy buff either but looking at federal government “solutions” over the years doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that they would handle the perception of grid problems any better. Perhaps if those liberal states spent more time improving their own lot, Texas wouldn’t have to provide so much power to all their refugees even as their grids fail worse than ours (California, for example).

If power generation reliability due to weather is so important, the feds can offer serious tax credits to upgrade all the components, not low cost loans the industry isn’t interested in. If it is also so important to improve capacity issues, the feds can subsidize natural gas plants the way they do “renewables” and private enterprise will jump on the bandwagon like ducks on a June bug. Too many people are convinced connecting distant grids will save the day when there are practical limits to how far the power can travel, even if billions are spent upgrading transmission lines…we’re not going to be “saved” by power from Canada/upper New York even if they happen to have excess capacity and far better weather conditions, which is unlikely in most scenarios.

Most of the deaths attributed to the storm were in fact caused by people making bad decisions. Throwing huge sums of money under the pretense of reliability when their real goal is to force Texas to follow more federal regulations so we can mimic the failures of liberal states is silly.

Mr. Miller and this Houston resident are correct. The larger an electric grid, the more bad decisions in one area affect all other areas. This applies especially to the Western Interconnection, after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) has shut down much of California’s generating capacity. Now, of course, he must tell owners of those electric vehicles he asked them to buy, not to charge them.


Whenever a “progressive” offers a problem they say is a rescue of you, run, don’t walk, away. Other regions of the country would derive no practical benefit from a broader interconnection. The proposal goes further than forcing Texas to accept interdependence. It would also visit upon the Eastern Interconnection the consequences of bad decisions in the Western.

This proposal also violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution’s guarantee of “a republican form of government.” Taking over the Texas electric grid would amount to relegating Texas to a province, not a State. That’s totally antithetical to “a republican form of government,” and likely to infuriate rank-and-file Texans once they understand the implications.

How Texas can protect and harden its own electric grid

Texas would do well to protect its own electric grid by reversing some of the bad decisions by ERCOT. (That applies especially to those by former members of the Council who do not even live in Texas!) Texas must, as Bill King warned, repair its disastrously vulnerable fuel mix. Tellingly, it will build a natural gas plant to replace – exactly – a coal plant that shut down six years ago. Texas should also build a nuclear generator – the kind of thing even Elon Musk is on record as encouraging.

The Texas electric grid could also become a demonstration project for storage of electricity. Battery farms, like the one Elon Musk is building near Angleton, Texas, are a good start. But Texas should explore other methods of storing energy – like gravity batteries. A firm called Energy Vault is building such a battery in Texas. It uses heavy bricks, and dynamic cranes that generate electricity while lowering them. That could be the cheapest solution, and the easiest to locate. Other gravity solutions include:

  • Raising and lowering a dead weight inside an abandoned mine shaft, and
  • Pumping water upstream of a dam to store power between reservoirs.

But the “pumped hydro” system is very expensive, in parts, labor, and usable land. The mine-shaft idea suffers from the drawback that the supply of mine shafts is limited.

Mind your own business!

But any kind of storage solution is far preferable to interconnection. Texas is prepared to atone for its own bad decisions, including those leading to the Deep Freeze. Texas has no reason to make itself vulnerable to anyone else’s bad decisions.


And Rep. AOC needs to hear one message she’s already getting from those Houston residents: MYOB. First attributed to the late advice columnist Ann Landers, it means: mind your own business. Texas is absolutely correct to attend to its own business, and tell AOC to mind hers.

About the NERC map

User Claude Boucher uploaded this map to Wikimedia Commons on May 11, 2009. He has licensed it under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-alike 3.0 Unported License.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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