DALLAS – In the aftermath of the worst disaster in Texas history, lawmakers, politicians and voters are pondering several questions that could determine the course of Lone Star history.
After making sure that all Texans have their basic services restored, state officials will heavily scrutinize the state’s energy delivery system and the poorly named Energy Reliability Council of Texas.
Voters in Texas will also examine the actions of their elected leaders, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Cruz, reelected in 2018, shockingly took a family trip to Cancun as millions of Texans were shivering without power or water.
Here are three questions to consider as the temperature rises:
• Did the Cruz-to-Cancun blunder cause the senator irreparable damage?
It’s been a tough few months for Cruz.
Last week he was criticized and mocked for taking an ill-advised family trip to Cancun as millions of Texas were suffering through the artic blast. It was a trip that included help from Houston police to get him through the airport. Cruz conceded that taking the trip was a mistake, but not until after questionable prepared statements got him into more hot water.
In January Cruz was blasted for his role in pushing a narrative that the election was possibly stolen from former President Donald Trump. The “Stop the Steal” effort is believed to have helped fuel the Jan. 6 riot at the United States Capitol.
Cruz has been mentioned as a 2024 presidential contender, a year he could also run for reelection. If he does remain in electoral politics, he can expect aggressive attack ads centering on the Cancun trip and his relationship with Trump.
Whether he can overcome the controversies hinges on how he rehabilitates his image. Four years is a long time in politics and candidates have overcome worse ordeals. In 2018 Cruz won reelection after repairing a divide he created with Trump voters by failing to endorse the businessman at the 2016 GOP convention.
Given that Cruz has always had high negatives, particularly outside his conservative base, he’ll have to hustle to recover from his political predicament.
• After the initial outrage, will Gov. Greg Abbott and lawmakers reform ERCOT and the energy delivery system?
Abbott and lawmakers are talking tough about holding ERCOT accountability for the power outages that left millions of Texans freezing and without water.
But we heard similar talk after the 2011 ice storm that wrecked Super Bowl week in North Texas and resulted in numerous recommendations for ERCOT and others.
What happened? Clearly not enough. The recommended winterization of equipment didn’t occur. The outrage from lawmakers subsided when balmy temperatures returned.
State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, said this time around will be different, pointing out that the much of the Legislature and executive branch was different in 2011. And that storm didn’t impact the entirety of the state like last week’s cold snap.
This week Goldman, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, will oversee hearings about what went wrong with the Texas grid and how to fix it.
The governor and lawmakers will have to stand up to energy industry officials — many of whom also are political donors — when crafting guidelines that could cost them money. The Texas grid has to be modernized to meet the needs of Texans in the typical heat and rare harsh cold.
• How will the debate over renewable energy play out?
When it was reported that Texas wind turbines had to be taken offline because they froze, Abbott and other Republicans took to the media to blast the concept of a Green New Deal for energy and tout the need for fossil fuels.
Hours later it was made clear that most of the problems with delivering energy resulted from problems related to traditional energy sources, including coal and natural gas.
Prematurely retreating to GOP talking points on energy was a bad look for Abbott and others, and such talk quickly faded.
Now Abbott must lead a legitimate discussion about modernizing the state’s energy infrastructure and how to get the best use of all the energy sources, including renewables, available to the state.
Gromer Jeffers Jr. is a graduate of Howard University and a Chicago native. He has covered four presidential campaigns and written extensively about local, state and national politics. Before writing for The Dallas Morning News, he was a reporter at The Kansas City Star and The Chicago Defender.