Austin: Manufacturing Kept Running While Hundreds of Thousands Had No Power

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By Brian Martel

Although homes have been without power for days, the City of Austin allowed manufacturing to continue fully powered until Tuesday.

Austin Energy began shutting off power to homes on Sunday when the Texas energy grid began to fail across the system. On Tuesday, over half of all households in Austin had no power. During this time, companies like Samsung and other semiconductor manufacturers remained powered.

The electricity used by Austin’s top 10 energy customers alone could power almost 12,000 homes. However, these top energy consumers continued to operate at full capacity until Austin mayor Steve Adler ordered industries to limit power on Tuesday.

Adler’s order, which “does not apply to a business providing essential services,” requires that industries “shut down non-essential processes and operations to the greatest extent possible.” The order also asked that Austin residents “set their thermostats to no more than 68 degrees.” Enforcement is not outlined for either of these requests.

When power is shut off for homes, it risks the health of the residents; when capitalist industry shuts down, it results in a loss of profits. The City of Austin has allowed large industries to maintain power because they serve the ruling class and prioritize profit.

The power outages across Texas are due to the mismanagement of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the State of Texas, which have both known about the energy grid’s vulnerability to cold weather since 1989. ERCOT did not make adequate preparations for the winter because of the cost, which the State of Texas allowed despite also knowing the risks.

State and city organizations and nonprofit corporations like ERCOT have asked residents to use less electricity, even though each individual household only takes up a fraction of the power used by Austin’s largest companies. Although the state and private companies caused this crisis, they are telling the working class to pay for it through minimizing their electricity usage or cutting it off completely. Meanwhile, private companies are allowed to run as long as possible for the same reason the disaster began: profit.

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