Following February’s deadly winter storms, Gov. Greg Abbott came under fire for blaming renewable energy for the state’s power woes. (He later walked it back.) U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was accused of abandoning suffering constituents for a Cancun beach vacation. Even Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton fled in favor of Utah.
One Republican who managed to remain under the radar has now staggered into the spotlight: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
In a Feb. 24 FOX appearance, Patrick explained that Texas residents can choose their own energy plan. Those stuck with high bills opted for a low-rate variable plan instead of one that’s fixed.
“The people who are getting those big bills are people who gambled on a very, very low rate and it would go up with the power,” Patrick said. “But I’ve told those folks: Do not panic. We are going to figure that out.
“But going forward, people need to read fine print in those kinds of bills and we may even end that type of variable plan because people were surprised,” he continued.
On the one hand, Patrick is right: Working with a wholesale energy provider is inherently risky. Yet many constituents never dreamed their nest egg would crack as a result of the state’s failures.
Plus, Patrick is a bit of a gambling man himself. Last March, he told FOX that Texas grandparents should be willing to risk their lives for the economy: "If that's the exchange, I'm all in."
When February's winter storms decimated Texas’ grid, many residents began to accuse the state’s generators and wholesale energy retailers of a sort of “legal” price gouging. Dallas architect Tyler Adams told the Observer he racked up $3,000 in one week. According to The New York Times, North Texas Army veteran Scott Willoughby now owes nearly $17,000, wrecking his savings.
Patrick’s gambling comparison upset many social media users, and they made sure to let him know.
“The people who are getting those big bills are people who gambled on a very, very low rate." – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
“The people did not gamble. They did not get to place the bet,” said Twitter user @UniteUsAll. “Your logic is the same as telling a person their investment may lose value and the next day their life savings and home are gone. That is not fine print.”
Other Twitter users took a more caustic approach.
The people did not gamble. They did not get to place the bet. Your logic is the same as telling a person their investment may lose value and the next day their life savings and home are gone. That is not fine print— Alt Mark Sanford (@UniteUsAII) February 25, 2021
“Lol @ this shit heel blaming consumers for not reading the fine print when the culprit is failed Republican policies,” wrote user @asmoul89. “If you hadn't handed control off to a bunch of greedy corporations that CHOSE not to winterize their equipment, power outages would've been minimal.”
This year’s crisis mirrored ones in 2011 and 1989, and many liberals condemned Republican leadership for refusing to invest in the proper energy infrastructure. The GOP pointed elsewhere, though, with Houston U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw and others blaming the state’s wind turbines, some of which had frozen.
Lol @ this shit heel blaming consumers for not reading the fine print when the culprit is failed Republican policies. If you hadn't handed control off to a bunch of greedy corporations that CHOSE not to winterize their equipment, power outages would've been minimal.— ???? TRANSformer Weston???? (@asmoul89) February 25, 2021
During the FOX interview, Patrick took his own potshot at clean energy.
“This issue about renewables or reliables is very clear to America and to Texas that you cannot count on renewables, wind or solar,” Patrick said. “They can be part of your portfolio as they are in Texas, but what got our power back was natural gas, nuke and clean-burning coal.”
But many experts say Texas Republicans are parroting misinformation: Some countries in much colder climates solely rely on renewables. Canada and Sweden depend on wind energy and have turbines equipped with de-icing mechanisms, according to an article on the technology website Interesting Engineering. Factcheck.org also declared false the GOP’s frozen-wind-turbine line.
Why make all these baseless claims then? Many have speculated green might have something to do with it, and not the energy kind.
The Associated Press reported that Abbott has received generous contributions from oil and gas titans and has taken in more money from donors than any other governor in U.S. history. Last year, Crenshaw himself raked in $453,247, according to Gizmodo. Individual fossil fuel donors have also showered Patrick in cash, causing some constituents to accuse him of putting profits over people.
Much like deciding which energy retailer to go with, selecting solid leadership can also be a gamble. If the GOP isn't careful, Texans might not bet it all on red next round.