Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Day Hell Froze Over In Texas, Con't

When government is small enough to drown in a bathtub, the solution is always brutal, late-stage capitalist exploitation of those who can least afford it, and Texas's power grid disaster is no different.

Some Texans are facing yet another crisis: how to pay enormous electric bills.

The Texas power supplier Griddy, which sells unusual plans with prices tied to the spot price of power on the Texas grid, warned its customers over the weekend that their bills would rise significantly during the storm and that they should switch providers.

Some quickly looked into doing that but found the actual changeover of service wouldn’t happen for days.

Now customers say they never dreamed they’d be billed in the four figures for five days of service.

Karen Cosby said her cost is $5,000 for usage since Saturday at her 2,700-square-foot house in Rockwall.

DeAndre Upshaw of Dallas said the electric bill for his 900-square-foot, two-story townhouse was also $5,000.

Other customers on social media expressed frustration with similar bills from Griddy, the power supplier that told its 29,000 customers on Saturday, after spot electricity prices soared, to quickly shift out of its network and find a new supplier.

Those spot prices hit $9,000 per megawatt-hour. That means $9 for a kilowatt-hour that usually costs Cosby around 7 cents, and sometimes as little as 2 cents.

In Texas’ deregulated electricity market, Griddy and some other power suppliers charge customers wholesale variable rates per kilowatt-hour. The plans are relatively new. Most Texans pay fixed rates.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, set a cap of $9,000 per megawatt-hour as an incentive to electricity suppliers to add natural gas-fired generating capacity, said Jere Thompson, retired co-founder of Dallas-based Ambit Energy.

“We all believed it [hitting that cap] would happen in the summer with peak cooling demand, but the possibility was always sitting out there,” Thompson said. Prices might hit the cap for a few hours, but no one thought they would stay at the cap for this long.

The price per megawatt-hour reached $9,000 around 10 p.m. Sunday night and stayed there for much of Monday and all of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday morning, it fell to $35 and kept dropping. At 4 p.m., it was 85 cents.

Watching the events unfold was mesmerizing, Thompson said. The retail providers are the shock absorbers when prices rise, and those companies are going to be hurt.

Customers hit with these bills should know they “are not alone in their predicament,” said Andrew Barlow, a spokesman for the Texas Public Utility Commission.

Wholesale rate-based plans “can be tantalizing to consumers when the sales emphasis is placed on the possibility of very low rates during times of pleasant weather,” he said. “But they can be financially devastating when harsh hot or cold weather creates scarcity in the wholesale energy market.


It's exactly the disaster capitalism that Republicans want. Cheap, deregulated versions of everything that you need and that government should safely provide and protect, for those who can afford the least, and when it inevitably fails, the rich get richer and the poor get destroyed.

 Everything Republican is Big Casino now, including power and water, and the house always wins. 

Everyone else always loses.


It's About Suppression, Con't

Georgia Republicans found out the hard way that Georgia isn't a red state, it's a purple state with decades of voter suppression where one-third of the population is Black, and current governor Brian Kemp knew exactly how to steal a close election against Stacey Abrams because he was Secretary of State. As a result, the GA GOP is introducing a massive new package of voter suppression measures targeting Black and brown voters to keep them from getting to the polls in 2022.

After Donald Trump failed to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, Republicans in the state’s legislature are doing everything they can to make it more difficult for Democrats to win the next one.

On Thursday, with almost no public notice, Georgia House Republicans introduced a 48-page bill to significantly change voting procedures in the state in a way that particularly targets Black voters in the Atlanta metro area. This followed similar moves by the state Senate earlier in the week.

The House bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Barry Fleming, chair of a newly created Special Committee on Election Integrity, limits the weekend early-voting period to only one Saturday before the election. Fleming claimed the provision will provide “uniformity” in voting hours across the state, but in practice it will take away voting opportunities for large, heavily Democratic counties in Atlanta, like DeKalb and Fulton, which held early voting on multiple weekends in the runup to the 2020 election when many Black voters turned out.

It specifically eliminates early voting on Sundays, when Black churches traditionally hold “Souls to the Polls” get-out-the-vote drives. The January 5 runoffs were the first time that Democrats outnumbered Republicans during in-person early voting, and Black voters constituted a third of early voters. In the November general election, Black voters used early voting on weekends at a higher rate than whites in 43 of 50 of the state’s largest counties. Black voters make up roughly 30 percent of Georgia’s electorate, but comprised 36.7 percent of Sunday voters in 2020 and 36.4 percent of voters on early voting days Fleming wants to eliminate, according to Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams.

“This bill is Jim Crow with a suit and tie,” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia.

When North Carolina Republicans eliminated Sunday voting in 2013 after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals called it “as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times” and struck it down for targeting Black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

Republican leaders in Georgia notably stood up to Trump when he sought to overturn the presidential election results in the state, with GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger defending the integrity of the system by holding three recounts that found no evidence of fraud. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans in the legislature from introducing bill after bill to limit voting options after Georgia turned blue, and Black voters showed up in record numbers during the January runoff to elect two Democratic senators.

The proposed reduction in early voting times in Georgia seems likely to make already-long lines in the state worse. Voters in Atlanta waited up to 11 hours to vote during the November general election, and during the June primary, voters in predominantly white areas waited six minutes to vote while voters in areas predominantly of people of color waited 51 minutes to vote.

Other provisions of the bill would add a voter-ID requirement for mail-in ballots, give voters less time to request mail-in ballots and election officials less time to send them out, throw out ballots that are cast in the wrong precinct, and restrict the use of mail-in ballot drop boxes.

The proposals “would have devastating consequences for voting rights in Georgia,” wrote a coalition of 28 voting rights groups led by Fair Fight Action, “and the people of Georgia have been blindsided by its release.”

Democrats were angry that the House bill was released at 1:53 p.m. on Thursday before a 3 p.m. hearing. “None of the Democrats had anything to say about it,” said state Rep. Rhonda Burnough, a Democrat from south Atlanta. “The public, people of color, didn’t have any opportunity to review or give an opinion.”

“There’s nothing more important fundamentally than a person’s right and the privilege of voting,” says Calvin Smyre, dean of the House and a longtime civil rights activist. “Something like this requires a lot of vetting.
The Republican answer to the marketplace of ideas is "keep Black people from voting because they vote Democratic." There's basically no better example of structural racism than Republican voter suppression in states with large Black populations. They do it, because they would lose without doing it.

It's that simple.

Black Votes Matter.
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