Afraid of power

By Nancy Black

Every time I hear that ERCOT (The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas) is asking citizens to conserve electricity, I immediately want to run to my refrigerator and stand in front of it with the doors wide open. No. Not so I can get cool. So I can force the power grid to work even harder. I have a fleeting, diabolical thought that if the grid actually fails, maybe leaders will finally make changes in Texas. Crazy, I know. But, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” 

That “Mad as hell” line is not unique to me. It’s from a fabulous movie from 1976 called “Network,” where a news anchor — frustrated with the state of our world — implores average citizens to get up off their couches, open their windows or doors and yell, “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Of course, I don’t want everyone to open their windows or doors right now to voice their opinions. It’s too hot outside. Keep those doors and windows closed, pull the shades down and turn off all the lights. That’s what I’ve been doing to keep my home cool during these triple-digit days. My thermostat is set at 80 degrees, which means I maintain a gentle sweat inside my house all day, while my animals pant and find solace on the cool tiles of our bathroom or kitchen floors.

Why can’t Texans stay cool in the summer and warm during winter without fearing their own personal electricity usage may cause the entire state to lose all power? I guess everything IS bigger in Texas, even our failures.

Did you know that the CEO of ERCOT makes $883,000 per year? Did you know ERCOT’s business model is “power for profit?” 

According to, a nonprofit news organization: “ERCOT is an independent system operator (ISO), essentially a pseudo-governmental agency that oversees a power grid in a competitive electricity market. Since 1999, some 90 percent of Texas has been the only part of the United States that isn’t linked within either the Eastern or Western Interconnects (grids) that serve the rest of the country.”

To avoid federal regulations, Texas power companies create “competition” in power markets aimed at driving up profits. “But absent nearly all regulation, a grid made up of private generators, transmission companies and energy retailers … is a profit-making bonanza.”

My heart goes out to the hundreds of thousands of community members who do not have air conditioning at all. And I am grateful for the ability to pay (fingers crossed) my own electric bill. But I’m scared every day that the entire state will lose power if I plug in my toaster. 

Constant fear is not a healthy state-of-mind. Especially in a state full of people who depend on power to live, not just live our daily lives, but actually survive another day when the temperatures outside are 109 degrees in the shade. Or like during our deep freeze a couple of years ago. I haven’t forgotten that the “energy-rich” State of Texas was four minutes and 37 seconds away from completely collapsing. As it was, many Texans still had to survive for days and weeks without power, much of that time in frigid temperatures. 

Yet I would bet money (not much, though. I do have to pay my electric bill, after all) that, right now, the thermostats in the Texas Governor’s Mansion and the CEO of ERCOT’s mansions are set a lot lower than 80 degrees. Any takers? No? You’re right. It would be a bad bet. They are not worried about a grid failure. They both probably have backup generators. After all, money buys power — literally and figuratively!

Heat makes me mad. Mad as hell. And I really am not going to take it anymore. I’m going to take action. What can little ’ole me do? Not stand in front of my refrigerator because I really, REALLY don’t want the grid to fail. But I can stand up and VOTE!