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World Texas Price Gouging Reported for Hotels, Food and Water Amid Storm Chaos

20:24  19 february  2021
20:24  19 february  2021 Source:   newsweek.com

ERCOT Power Outage Map, Updates As Texas Winter Storm Leaves 1.8 Million Without Power

  ERCOT Power Outage Map, Updates As Texas Winter Storm Leaves 1.8 Million Without Power Energy companies have been directed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to rotate power outages.Power Outage US reports that nearly two million Texans are without power as numerous energy providers implement controlled outages to control the flow of power. Texas is being hit by a winter storm and facing freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall.

Texan officials have taken action to prevent businesses in the snow-hit state from price gouging, after residents reported massively inflated prices for hotel rooms and basic supplies.

a brown leather couch in a living room: A person sleeps on a couch while taking shelter at Gallery Furniture store which opened its door and transformed into a warming station after winter weather caused electricity blackouts on February 18, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Winter storm Uri brought severe temperature drops causing a catastrophic failure of the power grid in Texas. About two million people are without electricity throughout Houston. © Go Nakamura/Getty Images A person sleeps on a couch while taking shelter at Gallery Furniture store which opened its door and transformed into a warming station after winter weather caused electricity blackouts on February 18, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Winter storm Uri brought severe temperature drops causing a catastrophic failure of the power grid in Texas. About two million people are without electricity throughout Houston.

Judge Lina Hidalgo said she had received reports of "outrageous prices on necessary items like food, water and housing."

Why the Texas power grid is struggling to cope with the extreme cold

  Why the Texas power grid is struggling to cope with the extreme cold A sudden spike in energy demand and a loss of natural gas, coal, nuclear, and wind energy during a winter storm triggered blackouts across the state.The National Weather Service on Monday reported that 150 million Americans were under various winter storm warnings, with heavy snow and ice still likely to sweep from the Southern Plains, to the Ohio Valley, to the Northeast.

A hotline has been established for the public to report cases. Offenders could face fines of up to $250,000, Hidalgo said.

Residents left without heating or electricity due to the severe winter storm that has swept across the southern U.S. have relied on hotel rooms in recent days, with occupancy rates said to have rocketed.

Austin-based news outlet KXAN received several emails on Monday and Tuesday showing distorted hotel prices, with a night at the Ramada by Wyndham in the south of the city allegedly being offered for up to $999.

3 ways Texas could avoid another electricity crisis

  3 ways Texas could avoid another electricity crisis The answer is not more fossil fuel power plants.When the cold front hit over the weekend, electricity use soared to heat buildings, but the grid couldn’t keep up with demand. Natural gas plants, which supply the majority of the state’s electricity, were not equipped to operate at such low temperatures. Despite widespread false claims spread on Fox News that frozen wind turbines were solely to blame for the blackout, failures at these gas plants are the main cause of the crisis, a spokesperson for ERCOT told Bloomberg.

Other nearby hotel chains were offering rooms for between $400 and $900, reports said.

A spokesperson for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts said that, "in speaking with the owner of this hotel, which is independently owned and operated as a franchise, it's our understanding that the temporary rate increases seen online were the result of the property working to close out its inventory as it managed the loss of power and other utilities."

The spokesperson added that assurances had since been given that "no guests were charged, nor was there any intent to charge, the rates shown."

When Newsweek searched for hotels in the area, prices appeared to be in line with market rates at less than $100 on some rooms.

Sen. Ted Cruz flew to Cancun for vacation during a winter storm that left millions of Texans without power: report

  Sen. Ted Cruz flew to Cancun for vacation during a winter storm that left millions of Texans without power: report Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas flew to Cancun this week, Fox News reported Thursday. His vacation coincided with one of the worst winter storms Texas has experienced in years. More than 2.7 million households were without power, as of Wednesday morning. Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas flew to Cancun this week while his constituents continue to struggle with one of the worst winter storms in years, Fox News reported Thursday.

Commenting on the reports of raised prices, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said: "No one is exempt from price gouging laws in Texas. Any person selling goods, necessities, or services at an exorbitant price will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

"I will not stand for any person or business unlawfully taking advantage of Texans."

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee also told AP that he had seen hotels "setting prices at ridiculous rates," but that prices for other essentials were also higher than normal.

"We've seen allegations of packs of water being sold for two to three times the normal price, or packs of water being divvied up and the individual bottles being sold at excessive prices," he said.

Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz tweeted: "A friend who is homeless in Dallas due to the power outages just told me that hotel rooms that normally cost $100/night are going for $700/night there. This is evil."

Much of Texas has power back — but it still faces water and food shortages

  Much of Texas has power back — but it still faces water and food shortages Millions of Texans are under “boil water” orders after a winter storm.On Friday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees much of the state’s power grid, ended emergency conditions and returned to normal operation. Previously, soaring demand for power and frozen natural gas pipelines, among other factors, meant that millions of Texas residents were without power and facing widespread rolling blackouts in freezing weather.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown has signed orders prohibiting local businesses from artificially raising prices and preventing commercial buildings from using electricity unnecessarily, such as outdoor light.

"We need our business partners to join in our community effort to all do our part to limit electricity use," he said.

"Today's order will help accomplish just that. Additionally, it will reinforce efforts to protect Travis County families from price gouging. This winter weather emergency is not an excuse to take advantage of our neighbors when they are vulnerable."

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has also signed an executive order calling for essential goods and accommodation to be sold at regular prices.

Guidance listed on the Texas attorney general's website states that if a "disaster has been declared by the governor of Texas or the president, and businesses raise the price of their products to exorbitant or excessive rates to take advantage of the disaster declaration, then it is quite likely that price gouging is taking place, and you should file a complaint."

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The Texan dream of going it alone was never real .
Losing power in Texas — and losing faith in the state’s reverence for rugged individualism.The trees broke easily, and after 30 minutes of hacking, I’d cut enough for two small blazes. I divided the wood — one half for my apartment, the other for my neighbor.

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