The lieutenant governor of Texas has blamed the state’s hard-hit residents for higher energy prices accrued throughout last week’s winter storm.
When more than four million Texans lost power as the crisis hit, the state’s Public Utilities Commission raised the cap on electricity prices to $9 (£6) per kilowatt-hour, to force users to switch off to try to protect the over-run grid.
Thousands of people’s bills were pushed up in the process, as the New York Times reported, with some resorting to their life savings to pay off the sudden debt.
Dan Patrick, the state’s lieutenant governor, told Fox News on Wednesday that the state’s residents — some of whom went days without the lights on — were personally to blame for the higher prices because they had not read the “fine print” of their contracts.
“I saw the story about the high bills,” said Mr Patrick. “Let me explain that. We have in Texas, you can choose your energy plan and most people have a fixed rate. If they had a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour, their rates aren’t going up.”
“But the people who are getting those big bills are people who gambled on a very, very low rate,” Mr Patrick said, and “going forward, people need to read the fine print in those kinds of bills, and we may even end that type of plan because people were surprised.”
Texas, in comparison to every other state, operates an independent energy grid that was deemed unsuitable for the freezing cold a decade ago, but as Bloomberg reported, officials did not act on the warnings before last week’s power supply issues.
Mr Patrick added: “The bottom line is, I’m the president of the [Texas] senate. No bill comes to the floor unless I approve of it.”
And of the power failure: “We’re going to get to the bottom of this, find out what the hell happened and we’re going to fix this once and for all.”
Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor, said last week that he would work with Texas lawmakers to discuss the higher energy bills, and acknowledged that it was a problem for many.
“We have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills that are a result of the severe winter weather and power outages,” said Mr Abbott, who faced calls to resign for the failure of the state’s power grid in temperatures that reached as low as 0F (-18C).