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How Texas’ Power Grid Caused the 2021 Blackouts

McKenzie Elyse

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Unprecedented winter weather conditions last week left Texas in peril as the power grid went down, the result of single-digit temperatures and snowstorms which are all but unheard of in the southern state. The recent mass-blackout situation has left many around the United States wondering if they could experience the same disruption in the event of a major weather emergency. 

Understanding how the power grid works is key to learning how the power supply in parts of Texas was completely decimated during the weather anomaly. The main power grid in the U.S. is made up of three sections: eastern, western, and ERCOT (Energy Reliability Council of Texas). These sections are known as ‘interconnections’ on the North American power grid, and operate independently of one another on their respective sides of the continent. The diagram above illustrates how the grid is separated by state. Texas is the only state in the U.S. that relies on an independent power grid to provide approximately 90% of its residents with electricity. 

A clearer picture of the problem behind the Texas blackouts emerges when we analyze how the system operates on a national scale. This type of grid technology improves the reliability, scalability, and efficiency of the networks; it also allows for even distribution of power across the network, even in the event of a system failure on one part of the grid. Because the vast majority of Texans get their power from a small, localized power grid, fewer system failures due to incidents like weather events can cause extensive blackout emergencies such as the one we witnessed last week.

The fatal power outages in Texas have led many to question why the state would choose to operate on the apparently riskier independent ERCOT interconnection, as opposed to connecting to the eastern and/or western interconnections. The answer, given the state’s reputation for right-leaning policies, isn’t particularly surprising: 

To avoid federal regulation.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Power Act in 1935, which tasked the Federal Power Commission with overseeing and regulating interstate electricity sales. By maintaining a power grid that did not cross state lines, Texas effectively dodged federal energy regulation until 1970. The ERCOT was established that year following a mass blackout incident in the Northeast in 1965, for the purpose of keeping the independent grid’s reliability up to national standards. 

While the cause of the blackouts may seem clear based on this information, Tex gov. Greg Abbott appeared on Fox News claiming that the loss of renewables during the storm was to blame for the outage that affected 4 million Texans last week.

“Our wind and our solar got shut down … and that thrust Texas into this situation where it was lacking power at a statewide basis” Abbott told Fox News.

Other politicians made similar claims following Abbott’s interview on Hannity last Tuesday.

Abbot and Fox news have since been slammed with retaliation from a slew of other media outlets, who insist that the loss of renewable energy sources was not to blame for the rolling blackouts. Though it is true that wind and solar power were lost during the storm, ERCOT officials stated that non-renewable energy sources accounted for double the power loss of renewables at a press conference that took place the same day as the Hannity interview.

As of Sunday, one week after the deadly storm enveloped the state in a thick sheet of snow and ice, most Texas homes and businesses have been reconnected to power.

I'm a copywriter, journalist, and web content creator with a strong passion for my work. Crafting narratives of the world around me brings me an incredible sense of joy — there's nothing I would rather be doing. Besides writing, I enjoy cooking, mixology, music, and my weird cat named Marceline.

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Business

Snowden NFT sells for $5.4 million amid the growing trend

McKenzie Elyse

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A piece of art by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has sold as an NFT for what was at the time valued at $5.4 million USD, or Ξ2,224.00 ETH (Ethereum Cryptocurrency). The image, titled “Stay Free,” shows Snowden’s face illustrated in the negative space of the pages of a US appeals court decision that ruled that the National Security Agency had violated US law. The artwork was created by Snowden himself using open-source software, and is the only known NFT produced by the former computer intelligence consultant. 

The proceeds of the sale will benefit the Freedom of the Press Foundation, where Snowden has held the position of president since 2014. The FPF states that their mission is to “protect, defend, and empower public-interest journalism in the 21st century.”

The Snowden NFT is currently the fourth most-expensive NFT to date, nearly doubling the USD sale price of Jack Dorsey’s infamous “First Tweet” of $2.9 million. Three weeks later, the current value of the Ethereum coin brought in by the Twitter CEO’s NFT sale on March 21st equals more than $3.7 million. The most expensive NFT to date is artist Beeple’s artwork titled “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” which sold for more than $69.3 million USD, or Ξ38,474.82 ETH on the date of sale. As of this writing, the same amount of ETH would be worth nearly $88 million USD.

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Business

Toshiba CEO resigns following private equity buyout offer of $20+ billion

McKenzie Elyse

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Toshiba CEO Nobuaki Kurumatani has resigned from his position, the Japanese tech conglomerate said in a statement on Wednesday. He will be replaced by chairman Satoshi Tsunakawa after serving just three years as Chief Executive Officer.

The resignation comes in tandem with news of a buyout offer from CVC Capital Partners, which reportedly exceeds $20 billion. Due to his previous affiliation as head of the Japanese operations of the UK-based private equity fund, Kurumatani’s governance and potential conflicts of interest have been called into question by the board and activist shareholders.

CVC Capital is not the only company that has expressed interest in taking Toshiba private. The Financial Times recently reported of another, larger buyout proposal from KKR & Co. Bloomberg News also reports that Canadian Brookfield Asset Management may also be exploring making an offer of their own.

Accepting any of these offers would remove Toshiba (OTCMKTS: TOSYY) from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Delisting could help expedite decision-making by Toshiba’s management, which has recently clashed with shareholders. It could also give Toshiba the agency to concentrate resources on renewable energy divisions and other core businesses.

Toshiba has been plagued by turbulent financial troubles over the last decade. It was revealed in 2015 that the conglomerate was profit-padding in excess of $1.2 billion between 2008 and 2014, which resulted in the resignation of seven top executives. Compounded with the heavy blow its integral nuclear division took from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Toshiba spent the following years unloading assets and restructuring across nearly all of its divisions.

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Apple

Apple Spring Event Will Take Place April 20, Likely to Reveal New iPads and AirTags

Colin Edge

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Apple has finally announced the date for its spring event. The iconic tech company sent out email invites to press for a virtual spring event taking place Tuesday, April 20, at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET). The event will be live streamed on Apple’s website.

The invite shows an Apple Pencil squiggle with spring-themed colors, and features the tagline “Spring Loaded”. Fans have already begun speculating what that catchy phrase could mean – is Apple teasing something?

But the announcement actually got out before invites were sent, courtesy of a Siri slip-up. Hours before the formal announcement, several sleuths found that if asked when the next Apple event was taking place, Siri responded: “The special event is on Tuesday, April 20, at Apple Park in Cupertino, CA. You can get all the details on Apple.com.” Thanks, Siri.

Apple geeks are thrilled with official news of an event, as speculation had been ramping up for months. After March came and went, predictions surrounding an event became wildly numerous and diverse concerning the nature of the event, when it might happen, and whether or not it was happening at all.

The star of the show is expected to be Apple’s new iPad Pro. The new models are likely to feature mini-LED screens and a new chip (potentially the in-house produced M1 chips currently installed in the MacBook Pro 13-inch and Air). Long-rumored AirTags may also make an appearance. The new Apple tracking devices could attach to personal items like a wallet or purse, and work with the Find My app to keep tabs on them. Third-party trackers from companies like Samsung and Tile already exist on the market.

Apple is also planning to hold the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) virtually in June. Apple enthusiasts are glad to know that WWDC is taking place in addition to, not instead of, a spring event.

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