Back in the late 1800s, Texas made the bold decision to become electric and power independent. The idea for energy independence started in World War II because of the demand for more power. Additionally, the market triggered the passage of the Federal Power Act a law regulating electrical power in 1935 across the United States.
Subsequently, Texas utilities never allowed power outside of the state to avoid federal regulation and make their own rules for how power is distributed and who benefits from the profits. The trouble with this type of self-reliance is that it is also a catalyst for zero responsibility when something goes wrong, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or Ercot, which operates the state’s power grid, was no exception.
Last month, a historic cold snap, the coldest February in more than thirty years, blanked Texas in snow and ice, having catastrophic consequences for millions in the lone star state. Consequences that in the 21st century were completely avoidable. As New Englanders, it’s unthinkable to imagine a cold-weather event could shut down a massive part of the state for any length of time, but for Texas, that’s exactly what happened.
In 2011, many states began to experience extreme weather conditions and Texas made the top of that list. Federal Regulators alerted ERCOT that’s its grid was weak and made several recommendations, but ERCOT never acted on them.
As a result, the storm that paralyzed parts of Texas last month left millions without water and heat- further prompting some to burn their belongings for warmth. Those that didn’t lose power, without warning, were hit with astronomical heating bills.
These egregious practices are not sustainable. Climate change and our lack of aggressive policies to mitigate the negative effects have left us all vulnerable, Texas being the extreme example. Governor Rick Scott of Texas erroneously stated that because the wind turbines froze during the storm, his citizens were left in the cold. Nothing could be further from the truth, as wind only generates 20% of the electricity in Texas. Texas mainly relies on natural gas to power the state, and experts say the natural gas infrastructure was unprepared for the frigid temperatures brought by the February storm.
Representatives need not deflect when a crisis happens but instead publicly state the facts to make certain they never happen again. Enforcing renewable energy and energy efficiency is the most responsible way towards a future that is undoubtedly poised to be extreme in every sense of the word.
The possibilities for renewable energy and energy savings are endless and it’s high time these solutions got the positive recognition they deserve. Renewable technologies like wind, geothermal, solar, and hydropower have been ready for use for years. Surrendering to the climate crisis at a time when the market is ready to implement solutions is equivalent to completely lifting COVID restrictions just when the vaccine rollout gets underway. It’s ludicrous and dangerous and yet, Governor Scott is once again, behind this negligent move.
Furthermore, the idea that regulations are counterproductive to prosperity is a baseless claim. It’s a necessary and responsible way of doing business and the only way forward. The disaster in Texas is a lesson for us all.
To hear more commentary regarding Texas and other environmental issues, listen to Cabell Eames, Legislative Manager on Callie Crossley’s Environmental Roundtable on Under the Radar.
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