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What Caused The Texas Energy Crisis?

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Questions arise regarding the failure of the Texas power grid as the state continues to recover from a historic winter storm.

The Current Texas Crisis

New reports from the Texas Tribune on Friday suggest that the state was “Seconds and minutes” away from a “catastrophic” blackout that could have lasted months if grid operators did not take action to stop a massive drop in energy supply.

Unseasonably cold temperatures knocked natural gas and coal plants offline as well as froze wind turbines. As a result, operators had to resort to rolling blackouts to stop the surge in demand from overwhelming its circuits.

Several factors have been blamed for the sudden and severe energy crisis, with fossil-fuel proponents blaming frozen wind turbines and other alternative energy that was frozen over, BBC suggested. Others such as the New York Times have blamed natural gas pipes freezing and pointing responsibility on to Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

However, there has been one component of the U.S. power grid that has not been looked into: The equipment itself.

China And The Electrical Grid

An April 2014 report from the Department of Energy found that there were only six domestic manufacturers of power equipment in the United States, while China had 30 manufacturers.

Several Chinese-based companies, such as HICO and Siemens, have plants that export transformers to several countries. The report further suggested that the actual production of U.S.-built transformers was less than a fifth of China’s production.

The report showed that the U.S. has become dependent on foreign-made transformers to maintain capability of the power grid.

“In 2010, only 15 percent of the Nation’s demand for power transformers…was met through domestic production,” the report concluded.

In 2019, deputy director of counterintelligence at the DOE said that “There have been over 200 Chinese transformers that have come into the U.S. energy sector in the last ten years,” according to RealClearEnergy, highlighting the country’s dependence on energy.

One of the companies who makes these transformers, JiangSu HuaPeng Transformer Co., recently finished projects in Houston. The city was among the hardest hit in the recent energy crisis.

Trump’s Executive Order

On May 1, 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order that essentially made the U.S> power grid “America First” by allowing the Secretaries of Defense, Interior and Homeland Security along with the Director of National intelligence to identify equipment that was designed and owned by foreign jurisdictions, including China.

The E.O. aimed to prevent future transactions regarding the supplementation or manufacturing of any equipment that under “foreign adversary control.”

“The transaction…poses and undue risk of sabotage to or subversion of the design, integrity…or manufacturing of the bulk-power system in the United States.” The E.O. read in part.

The order would allow the appropriate departments to “identify” the equipment and “isolate or monitor” their behavior. A task force also formed to focus on vulnerabilities and procurement of the power system of the U.S.

The order may have stemmed from a report regarding the “Electric Panda” hacking group. POLITICO reported that the group had targeted 40 U.S. contracting facilities that specialize in numerous fields.

The U.S. energy secretary at the time also prohibited utilities that supply facilities from importing items from China. Secretary Dan Brouillette said that it was “imperative” the power system was secure from attacks and exploitation.

Biden Reverses Course

On President Joe Biden’s first day in office, he issued an executive order seeking to address the Keystone XL pipeline. In the bottom part of the order, the action also suspended Trump’s order for 90 days to consider if a replacement should be issued.

The provision reportedly allows China to continue exporting transformers to the United States without any issues. It also comes on the heels of reports that Chinese hackers used the SolarWinds bug to spy on U.S. payrolls.

The order remains suspended until April, when the order will be replaced or expire. It is not clear what the Biden administration will replace the order with, if at all.

Before the winter storm, Biden approved an emergency declaration for Texas in the event of the worst. However, Biden’s response to the power outages has been slow, with new authorizations only coming yesterday regarding deliveries of supplies.

What Happens Next?

The situation in Texas, albeit caused mainly by unprecedented weather conditions, could have been mitigated significantly. The use of Chinese-built transformers may have had a role in exactly why the power grid catastrophically failed.

Although it’s unlikely a cyberattack may have caused the grid to undergo immense stress, the use of such technology should be of concern. The vulnerabilities of the U.S. power grid are now on display in the south and should not go unnoticed.


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Business

Former RNC Digital Director Talks How to Fight Back Against Online Assault on Democracy

Cyrus Krohn is the Author of Bombarded! How to Fight Back Against Online Assault on Democracy

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Cyrus Krohn has been a cutting-edge communicator, digital innovator and new media executive for over 20 years. Krohn is currently Senior Vice President of Business Development at Civic Science, Inc. He advises businesses including Democracy Live, a voting technology company and Element Data, Inc., focused on decision intelligence software. He managed acquisition of the Cheezburger Network, one of the world’s largest digital media companies focused on humor and entertainment, to Literally Media. Prior to Cheezburger, Krohn co-founded Crowdverb and sold the start-up to WPP, the world’s largest communication services group. Krohn has worked as a senior director and executive producer at technology companies including Microsoft and Yahoo. Watch as Cyrus discusses his new book, Bombarded!, with PolitiCrossing Founder, Chris Widener.

In 2013, Krohn was named one of the Top 50 digital political strategists in the United States. Krohn served as director of digital strategy for the Republican National Committee’s eCampaign Division. He joined the RNC following two years at Yahoo! as director of content production and election strategy. Krohn worked under well-known Hollywood media executive Lloyd Braun at Yahoo! Media Group in Santa Monica, California, creating original programming.

Prior to Yahoo!, Krohn spent ten years at Microsoft. He was Slate Magazine’s first employee and then publisher while the webzine was owned by Microsoft. While publisher, Slate reached profitability and won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence Online. He is editor of the Slate Diaries, published by Public Affairs Books. Krohn also managed the political advertising effort for MSN.com, the Microsoft Network and was executive producer at MSN Video.

Krohn worked in CNN’s Washington, D.C. bureau producing Larry King Live and Crossfire and served as an intern in the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB) and White House for Vice President Dan Quayle. Krohn served as president of the Washington State News Council, an independent, nonprofit, statewide organization whose members share a common belief that fair, accurate and balanced news media are vital to our democracy.

Krohn graduated from Lynchburg College and served on the Board of Advisors of the George Washington University Institute for Politics Democracy and the Internet and the E-Voter Institute. He has lectured on the impact the Internet is having on the political process at the 2013 Personal Democracy Forum, University of Michigan Knight-Wallace Fellows, Johns Hopkins University, American University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, University of Pennsylvania, The Aspen Institute, Harvard and MIT.

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Society & Culture

The Great Con Pt 1: The Social Media Con

PolitiCrossing Founder Chris Widener explains how the left conned us through social media.

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Check out the latest video from PolitiCrossing founder Chris Widener as he explains how the left used social media to con America and steal the country. In this video, Chris describes the plan and execution of controlling all communication. He also tells you exactly what to do to make a difference. And in case you missed it, you can see the introduction to this series here.

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