While President Biden visits storm-torn Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz will be giving a speech on ‘cancel culture’ in Florida

cruz biden
While the president visits storm-torn Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz will be at CPAC.

  • President Joe Biden is heading to Texas on Friday to survey storm recovery efforts.
  • But he won’t be meeting with either Sens. Cruz or Cornyn.
  • Cruz will be giving a speech on cancel culture at CPAC that day instead. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden heads to Texas on Friday to tour some of the hardest hit areas of the state, but while he’s there, he won’t be meeting with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. 

That’s because Cruz has a speaking engagement that day at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. He’ll be giving a speech entitled “Bill of Rights, Liberty, and Cancel Culture.” Cancel culture appears to be a major theme of the conference; former President Donald Trump will give a speech on Sunday entitled “America Uncancelled.”

Though it’s typical for senators to travel with the president when visiting their states, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that there were “limitations on space” on Air Force One, making it impossible for Cruz or his fellow GOP Sen. John Cornyn to join. Instead, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will accompany the president. 

“There are some limitations on space available, so there are not members, I don’t believe, of any party traveling with the president to Texas,” Psaki told reporters, noting that First Lady Dr. Jill Biden would be joining the president on his trip. “But again, he’s going to be spending the day traveling with Gov. Abbott and surveying the damage on the ground.”

According to Psaki, Biden will “meet with local leaders to discuss the winter storm, relief efforts, progress toward recovery, and the incredible resilience shown by the people of Houston and Texas.”

Some have speculated that Cruz was left off Biden’s travel plan because of the senator’s recent controversial trip to Cancun

Cruz angered many last week when he was spotted heading to Cancun amid one of the worst winter storms in the state’s history. Many accused the senator of abandoning his constituents, and Cruz later admitted the trip was “obviously a mistake.”

The White House has not directly commented on Cruz’s behavior, though Psaki did say last week that “Many people across the state are without power [and] without the resources they need, and we expect that would be the focus of anyone in the state who was elected to represent them.”

Insider has reached out to both Cruz and Cornyn’s offices for comment. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to apply for aid if you’ve been affected by the winter storms in and around Texas

texas storm
A Waco, Texas, resident clears snow from his driveway alongside his dog on February 17, 2021 as severe winter weather conditions over the last few days has forced road closures and power outages over the state.

The devastating cold snap in and around Texas last week has had major effects: On Saturday, President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in the state, and AccuWeather estimates the overall value of the damages could approach $50 billion

Individuals and households who have been affected by surging electrical prices, burst pipes, or other damages as a result of the disaster are eligible to apply for aid from the government as well as from mutual aid funds.

To help untangle the various websites and applications you’ll need to sift through to apply for aid, we’ve rounded up the key details below.

FEMA, the government’s emergency management arm, is offering aid to residents in 77 hard-hit Texas counties

In order to receive aid, you can apply on FEMA’s website. In order to apply for FEMA aid for damages, you must first submit an insurance claim. Thus far, FEMA’s website states that $467,045 in damages has been allotted to individuals and households in total, and 135 individual applications have been approved. FEMA also notes that it cannot reimburse for the value of food lost due to outages.

FEMA assistance applications are open within 60 days of the disaster declaration on February 19. LoneStar Legal Aid, a Texas legal organization, reports that FEMA can help with rent, damaged items, or home repairs. If you’re uninsured, FEMA says, the best way to get relief is through visiting DisasterAssistance.gov. After filling out the Disaster Survivor Application Checklist and completing an online application, the agency will review it and decide if you’re eligible for aid. 

The US Department of Agriculture is offering some relief to farmers affected by the storms

Texas’ citrus crop, in particular, is suffering as a result of the deep freeze, AccuWeather reported Friday. With accurate records, farmers can be partially reimbursed for the loss of livestock, fish, or crops. Read more about the US Department of Agriculture’s relief offerings here.

The USA Small Business Administration is also offering low-interest loans to small businesses in areas where a disaster has been declared

More information about the process is available on the administration’s website. The SBA, the website states, helps “eligible small businesses and nonprofit organizations with working capital to help overcome the economic injury of a declared disaster.” It also offers home/personal property loans and more. 

Mutual aid groups are another way to get help

One group distributing funds is North Texas Mutual aid, which allows people in need to get in touch via a form on its website. Many mutual aid groups have received overwhelming donations and applications and are temporarily putting their applications for aid on pause, including Bread of Life, Inc, and the Texas NAACP. Check back on their websites in the coming weeks to see if there’s a second round of relief applications, or search for mutual aid groups that are located in your community.  

Read the original article on Business Insider

Scammers are targeting Texans as winter storm leaves many without power, feds warn

winter storm texas snow
Ice and snow blanketing roads in Odessa, Texas, on February 15, 2021.

  • Federal authorities are warning Texans of increased scam efforts after a devastating winter storm. 
  • Some scammers are already posing as representatives from electricity companies. 
  • Many residents lost power and others have suffered property damage from the storm. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas warned residents to be on the lookout for scams as the state deals with an unprecedented winter storm that has left many with property damage and no electricity. 

“Fraudsters often appear from nowhere to take advantage of natural disasters, which is what occurred in the early days of the pandemic. Now, we are concerned that weary homeowners will fall prey to unsolicited calls regarding insurance claims, home warranties, or bogus government grants” acting US Attorney Nicholas Ganjei said.  “If you did not solicit the call, hang up.” 

On Wednesday, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas warned residents about a scam circulating on social media that asked customers to text their private account numbers.

“Don’t do it!  We don’t need any of your info to get your power back on – we are working as fast as we possibly can,” ERCOT said in a tweet

Local outlet WFAA reported that there have been several scam calls of people posing as representatives of electricity companies to get personal information.

Anthea Stroman of Arlington, Texas told the outlet that she got a call from someone claiming to be from TXU Energy who said her power would be shut off in half an hour because of an unpaid bill. Stroman said she was told to call a number to make a payment, but the person on the other end of that line would not tell her what company he worked for. 

“He was being very snarky,” Stroman said. “It was as if he was reprimanding me. He said, ‘You know who you are calling. You know what you need to do.’ I used a few choice words at that moment before I hung up.”

The Federal Trade Commission reported that in 2020 they received 500,000 reports of impostor scams. These types of scams happen when a fraudster pretends to be someone else or to be affiliated with a business or government agency. It’s one of the most common types of fraud.

Imposter scams resulted in almost $1.2 billion of losses last year. 

Insider previously reported on the winter storms that have pummeled the Texas energy grid and forced shutoffs to heat and power. As of Friday morning, about 193,000 customers were still without power, but power has been restored to the majority of the over 3 million Texas residents whose power went out earlier in the week. 

AccuWeather reported that damages from the storm in and around Texas could be close to $50 billion. The estimate encompasses lost wages, damages to businesses and homes, and cleanup costs across the region. 

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at salarshani@insider.com

Read the original article on Business Insider

Ted Cruz traveled to Jamaica for July 4th last year, defying public health guidelines during the pandemic, report says

Ted Cruz
Cruz is facing criticism for flying to Cancun as his home state of Texas grapples with severe winter storms.

  • The Washington Post reported GOP Sen. Ted Cruz traveled to Jamaica for the Fourth of July last year.
  • CDC guidelines at the time recommended Americans avoid nonessential travel.
  • The Post report came as Cruz faces criticism for traveling to Cancun as Texas battles winter storms.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Sen. Ted Cruz traveled to Jamaica last year for the Fourth of July, despite public health recommendations to avoid unnecessary travel during the pandemic, The Washington Post reported.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines at the time recommended Americans avoid nonessential international travel due to the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Sources told The Post the Republican senator was visiting a friend from college.

Cruz’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The news came as Cruz is facing criticism for flying to Cancun for a luxury vacation as his home state of Texas grapples with severe winter storms.

The senator was spotted Wednesday flying from Houston to Cancun, before returning home the following day amid outrage. While speaking to reporters outside his home, Cruz expressed regret for the decision to go.

“It was obviously a mistake and in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it,” Cruz told reporters, saying that it wasn’t his intention to diminish “the suffering and hardship other Texans had experienced.”

The storms in Texas left millions without power or clean drinking water for days, though as of Thursday many households had had their power restored.

Cruz has previously criticised Democratic politicians for flouting COVID-19 guidelines that they themselves had promoted.

“Hypocrites. Complete and utter hypocrites,” Cruz tweeted in December, after Democratic officials were found to be breaking their own coronavirus restrictions.

He also chided Austin Mayor Steve Adler, referring to the Democrat taking a “private jet” to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

“And don’t forget @MayorAdler who took a private jet with eight people to Cabo and WHILE IN CABO recorded a video telling Austinites to ‘stay home if you can…this is not the time to relax,'” Cruz tweeted.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Blame the wind? In Texas, fossil fuels have actually played a larger role in leaving millions without power

GettyImages 1231190260
Pedestrians walk on along a snow-covered street on February 15, 2021 in Austin, Texas.

  • Freezing cold temperatures have caused severe power outages in Texas.
  • A majority of lost generation has been from fossil fuels, not wind.
  • But the main factor is not the source of electricity, but the extreme weather.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

It’s a popular claim and a powerful image, attracting the attention of conservatives and headline writers of all political persuasions: frozen wind turbines are to blame for Texans losing power and icicles forming their homes during this week’s shocking cold spell.

There are a number of reasons why, as of Tuesday evening, more than 3 million Texas were without power. The simplest explanation is that the extreme cold has spurred an unprecedented demand for heat, outstripping the state’s ability to provide.

According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages 75% of the state’s deregulated electricity market, the previous record for demand, set in 2018, was smashed on Valentine’s Day. And as the weather has gotten worse, the capacity to generate electricity has diminished: By Tuesday, per ERCOT’s CEO, 45,000 megawatts of generating capacity was offline – up from 34,000 megawatts offline the day before, representing more than half of what the state typically uses in a day.

Most of the generation lost has been from coal and gas, according to ERCOT, with only 13% attributable to wind. “By some estimates,” The Texas Tribune reported Tuesday, “nearly half of the state’s natural gas production has screeched to a halt.”

“Gathering lines freeze, and the wells get so cold that they can’t produce,” Parker Fawcett, a natural gas analyst at S&P Global Platts, told the Tribune. “And, pumps use electricity, so they’re not even able to lift that gas and liquid, because there’s no power to produce.”

Texas is unique: It does, by far, generate the most electricity from wind of any state – three times as much as liberal California. It is also energy-independent, its electricity grid almost entirely disconnected from the rest of the country, a move that insulates it from federal regulation and has also left it hanging now, in this moment of need, with so much of its own power generation frozen and offline.

Despite its greater than typical reliance on wind, Texas’ chief source of electricity is not renewable. Indeed, a majority, 52%, comes from natural gas, according to the US Energy Information Administration, while less than a quarter comes from renewables like wind and solar.

And fossil fuels have been affected by the weather too.

As of Tuesday morning, distributor Texas Gas Service warned consumers, “our suppliers of natural gas are experiencing freezing gas wells due to the duration of the extreme cold.”

It is also simply the case that, whatever the fault of regulators and local politicians, Texas is a victim of a cold spell like it hasn’t seen in decades.

A 2016 risk assessment from the US Department of Energy, detailing electricity outages between 1992 and 2009, says 18 were caused by thunderstorms and eight by heatwaves. It doesn’t list freezing temperatures.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

Read the original article on Business Insider

‘I got no defense’: Ted Cruz responds after viral tweet mocking California energy policies resurfaces amid Texas storm

Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, on the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz responded to online criticism over a resurfaced tweet Tuesday evening.
  • In August, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas mocked California’s “failed energy policies” on Twitter.
  • His post resurfaced Tuesday as over 3 million Texans were without electricity during a winter storm.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Sen. Ted Cruz struck a rare conciliatory tone after Twitter users lambasted the Texas senator for a resurfaced August tweet in which he mocked California’s “failed energy policies,” as millions of Texans were left without electricity due to a severe winter storm this past weekend. 

Many accused Cruz of being hypocritical for criticizing California’s power infrastructure following the wildfires and extreme heat waves that plagued the West Coast last summer, when his own state’s infrastructure is also struggling to handle inclement weather.

“I got no defense,” Cruz tweeted Tuesday, following the online critiques. “A blizzard strikes Texas & our state shuts down. Not good.”

 

In August, Cruz responded to a message from the governor’s office urging Californians to turn off unneeded lights and limit their use of appliances, saying the state was “unable to perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity.”

He then accused President Joe Biden, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Vice President Kamala Harris of wanting to make California’s “failed energy policy the standard nationwide.”

“Hope you don’t like air conditioning!” he tweeted last year.

 

Now, Texas’ power grid has failed, as the state’s infrastructure is unequipped to handle large amounts of ice and snow and freezing temperatures. As of Tuesday evening, more than 3 million Texans were without power, according to the outage tracking site PowerOutage.us.

The power outages and rolling blackouts have affected designated warming centers and shelters. Two men were found dead this week in Texas; their deaths are believed to have been due to exposure to low temperatures.

Insider’s Charles Davis reported Tuesday that there are a number of reasons for the mass power outages across Texas, but the simplest explanation is that the extreme cold has spurred an unprecedented demand for heat, outstripping the state’s ability to provide.

According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, as the weather has gotten worse, the capacity to generate electricity has diminished.

Despite Cruz’s concession, many were quick to point out that the senator had not actually issued an apology to Californians or the politicians he criticized in his original tweet. Some praised his honesty, while others urged the lawmaker to take legislative action to help the millions across the region affected by the freezing temperatures.

“Stay safe!” he tweeted.

Read the original article on Business Insider