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From Audio: The Blackout in Texas

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we're following breaking news. Millions of people in Texas are without power right now is the state looks to conserve energy and relieve stress on the electric grid from New York Times. I'm Michael will borrow. This is a daily today. Huge winter storms have plunged large parts of the central and southern United States, including much of Texas, into a deadly energy crisis. Initially, we thought these outages would last maybe a few minutes. That's what we were told. But many people have lost power for hours a day longer with rolling blackouts leaving much of the state powerless amid dangerously cold temperatures. Medical examiners in Galveston requesting a refrigerated truck after reports of several cold weather related deaths. My colleagues Clifford Krauss and Brad Plumer on Why what happened in Texas? Maybe a glimpse into America's future. It's Wednesday, February 17th. Hello, Cliff. Mhm, Mike. Hello. Hi, Cliff. Hey, it's Michael. Barbara? Cliff, can you hear me? Yeah. Hey, Michael. How are you? I'm just, uh I'm just trying this. Uh huh. Your, uh, your services a little spotty, which, under the circumstances, makes total sense. I'm just gonna try to see if I can get a kind of clean exception in a different place. Yeah, you're You're starting to sound a little. You're starting to sound a little bit better just as you moved. Good. Good. Because I was in my car, and now I'm in my house, and now I'm gonna go to the second floor. My car is warmer than my house, but the cell coverage is better in the house. Okay? How does that sound? It sounds really good. Wait. So So you were just out inside your car? Yes, because I was charging my phone. I can't do that in the house. Right. Because you don't have electricity, girl. That's right. So I just don't understand. Like, how are you doing? What is working in your life? How many layers of clothing are you wearing? Are you okay? Okay. Going backwards. How? Maney layers. Well, I have an Arctic ski jacket, so I'm wearing that and very warm sweatpants over another pair of sweatpants. So that's what I'm wearing. And I got my hood on from my car CO, which I got for a trip up to the Canadian Arctic years ago. And I've been under blankets as well. So it's It's very very cold in the house. Nothing is working. I mean, we had a leak last night. I'm not sure why, but since there's no water anymore, there's no leak anymore. So that's the good news. We had some problems with our heating system downstairs, but now there's no heat. It all so that's fine. And, um, you know, there's no electricity. The worst part of this right now is no coffee. You know, he'll we'll hunker down. I'll have some mild withdrawals from not having coffee, and hopefully we'll get some heat by tonight. We haven't had heat since about 40 clock this morning. We expected it because a lot of people, um, didn't have power for whole day yesterday. So, Cliff, how cold is it in your house? And how cold is it outside, And is there much of a difference? At this point, I'd be guessing, but probably it's about 20 to 25 degrees in my house right now and getting colder thes air the coldest temperatures I understand in 35 years or so. So Cliff, we want to understand what has just happened in Texas. Very clearly, there has been a pretty epic failure of the States electric power system. And as it happens, you're not just a man in Houston without power sitting in a freezing cold house. You are a Times energy reporter who very well understands how energy flows through electric grid. So what do we need toe understand about how Texans get electricity? Okay, so Texans get their electricity through many sources. We have coal and nuclear and solar and quite a bit of wind and also natural gas, which is the number one provider. But also the most unique thing about the Texas grid is its independence from the rest of the country. So, Cliff, why is Texas Energy independent? Cause my sense is that most states want to be connected to a larger national electric grid because it creates, I believe the industry term is redundancy, right? Like something goes wrong, you can call upon another state, and you can ask them for electricity from their state. And it means you have kind of backup systems. Well, most states don't have both the demand, the people and the supply, very few dio. And so if you're a North Dakota and you've got a lot of wind and you're producing a lot of wind energy. But you don't have a big population. You're gonna send that energy through transmission lines to other states. If you are, you know, New York and you want high stroll from Canada, you're going to bring it down. Texas doesn't need to do that. Texas has got the supply and the demand within its own borders. So in other words, Texas creates so much power that it's view is we don't really need to take power from anybody else. We can be self sufficient, so we will be self sufficient, and we'll kind of cut ourselves off from the rest of the grid. Yes, that is true. Now there are exceptions. Theo exceptions air, usually in the summer when the temperatures rise very, very high and demand for use of air conditioners is very high. But of course, that is not what happened today. This was not a story of high air conditioning usage taxing the Texas electric system. So what exactly did happen in the last 24 hours with this storm and this very unique diversified electric system that's independent in Texas, that has led us to this point. So in the 24 to 36 hours. There's been an extreme situation that Texans haven't seen in about 35 years, and that is intense cold sleep and ice and snow across the entire state. Every county from West Texas in the Permian Basin, which is the center of the oil business, which is on the edge of the Chihuahua desert, as well as in the northern prairies around Dallas and Fort Worth and down to San Antonio. All of these areas had temperatures in the low single digits unprecedented, forcing millions of Texans to simultaneously crank up their heap. And this kind of certain demands during the winter across the state was never anticipated by the people who constructed the grid. And so what? The Texas grid operators did. WAAS institute rolling blackouts in which alternate communities or neighborhoods lost power to conserve as much energy as possible. Mhm. And how long do these rolling blackouts last? At first, the regulators said that the interruptions would last like 45 minutes. But by the end of Monday, it became clear that there were interruptions of 12 hours, or mawr for some people an entire day, or even more than that Wow. So at this point, you have super high consumer demand, rolling blackouts and on top of that, unusually cold temperatures, snow and freezing rain. Right? So where does that leave the grid? It seems like everything has gone wrong. There's been a freezing up of at least some of the wind turbines. There's been a freezing a cough. Gas lines. There have been problems with the transmission, even from the nuclear as well as, uh, coal plants. So across the entire supply chain, there are problems. And so it appears to be a system that is not prepared to deal with prolonged periods off cold. Got it? So this is not a problem where one kind of energy source faltered or failed and others succeeded. It feels like this is a crisis in which almost all sources of energy failed. Yes, basically, the infrastructure of the state is not prepared for these extreme conditions on. And maybe if the extreme conditions were one part of the pig or another, there would be sufficient back up. But the fact that these conditions blanket the entire state and the state has one system makes it feel like this is the perfect storm in more ways than one. Well, so let me ask you this, Cliff, Is this the story of a very bad winter storm that upended a reasonably good system? Or is this the story of what turns out to have?
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