9.9 C
Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Winter storm or not, Texas needs better energy and infrastructure

During the height of the great winter storm of 2021, when millions of Texans were shivering in the dark, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offered a hilarious observation on Twitter: “The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you *don’t* pursue a Green New Deal.”

So, a lack of a Green New Deal caused millions of Texans to lose power as a winter storm barreled through the Lone Star State? Didn’t the power failures start when many of the wind turbines in West Texas froze and stopped moving?

The truth is that every other type of power generation technology — gas, coal, solar, and nuclear — failed as well. The question is not renewables over fossil fuels but rather, why were generators of all types not hardened for a cold-weather event? The brief answer is that it doesn’t get that cold in Southeast Texas very often, about once in 10 years to a generation. But when the temperature does drop below 20 degrees, catastrophe occurs to such an extent that for about a week, Southeast Texas resembled a movie about the fall of civilization.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed that his first order of business will be to get to the bottom of why the power outages occurred and to fix those problems. The governor and the legislature had better act. Millions of Texans who shivered in the dark, in some cases having their homes ruined by burst water pipes, are looking for someone to blame and punish. Abbott and the Texas legislature would be wise to come up with solutions and initiate them quickly if they don’t want to be on the electoral chopping block during the 2022 midterm elections.

The great winter storm of 2021 was just the second time that Houston received a hard lesson about what happens when a city neglects infrastructure. Hurricane Harvey turned the city into a lake, causing untold damage and misery as rising floodwaters inundated homes and businesses. The disaster happened because Houston’s system of bayous and reservoirs designed to deal with floods was inadequate to deal with a once-in-a-century event.

Whether one is a Green New Dealer or a free market conservative, the lesson is to not neglect infrastructure, or infrastructure will surely neglect you. Winterizing power generators of all types, widening bayous and reservoirs, and building the so-called Ike Dike, named after an earlier hurricane that flooded coastal Texas, should be a top priority for the Lone Star State. Infrastructure improvement will be costly but would save money and lives when the next catastrophe strikes.

Texas should also think seriously about expanding and diversifying its power grid. More nuclear power, using modern, safer technology, would help. More carbon capture power plants, using fossil fuels but with zero emissions, would also be a great idea. Texas or any other place should not be overly dependent on just one power generation technology, the reason why Ocasio-Cortez’s jibe about the Green New Deal, which would cripple modern civilization, is so funny.

And, since we are making fun of Ocasio-Cortez, it is only fair that we give someone from the opposite side of the political spectrum the same treatment. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, has had a lot of fun pointing fingers and laughing at California for its chronic rolling blackouts because of bad energy policy. Now that Texas has had the same experience, Cruz, in a rare moment of humility, tweeted: “I got no defense. A blizzard strikes Texas & our state shuts down. Not good. Stay safe!”

Unlike Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz is capable of learning a lesson. He would do himself, his state, and his country good by pushing for solutions on the federal level. Infrastructure is like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but no one seems able to do anything about it. That needs to change.

Mark Whittington, who just spent some time freezing in the dark in his home in Houston, writes frequently about space and politics and has published a political study of space exploration titled Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? as well as The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.

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