Staying energetic about Texas

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Hunter Berube

Suffolk Climate Watch graphic

As Texas citizens continue to feel the effects of power outages that left millions in the cold and dark earlier this month, the state has yet to place blame for the outages on any particular organization. 

However, the electric companies, government and power grid technicians all share the blame in this situation, which makes it impossible to single one out. Republican Governor Greg Abbott has accused the Electric Reliability Council, which manages the flow of electric power in the state, of misleading the public about the readiness of the system to handle freezing temperatures.

However, all power systems in Texas were affected, so the blame cannot be placed on any one source alone, according to Inside Climate News. The power grid suffered from the low temperatures, causing millions of outages across the state. 

Texas is generally a summer peak state, with higher electricity use during the warmer season. Grid operators were ill-prepared to have such a surge during the winter months, which played a role in the outages, Inside Climate News reported. A lesser factor that played into the struggle for power was the decrease in solar energy use, a popular energy source during the summer. When the days are shorter, solar energy is less reliable and leads to more consumers using fossil fuels and natural gases. 

According to Reuters, the main reason that the Texas energy crisis was so bad was record-low temperatures that affected production and transport of all energy sources, coupled with the independence of Texas’s grid that was unable to procure energy from out-of-state. 

Texas accounts for almost one-seventh of energy consumption in the U.S. and provides over one-fifth of domestically produced energy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that Texas uses more energy than any other state. 

Being such a large energy consumer, the state needs to refocus on electricity generation from renewable resources in order to move the U.S. in a positive direction in combating the rise of climate-warming gases produced from the consumption of coal. 

According to Inside Climate News, the U.S. generated more electricity from renewable energy sources than coal in 2020. Texas is first in the nation for wind-generated electricity, but it’s also the largest consumer of coal. In turn, the state is a large producer of carbon, which is emitted using coal as fuel.  

In a new proposal from the Biden Administration, the social cost of carbon will be raised to $52 per ton, which will impact coal-burning, carbon-producing Texas heavily. The social cost of carbon is the burden of burning nonrenewable fuels translated into economic terms. Companies that rely on fuel sources like petroleum, coal and natural gas will be taxed for the climate-warming emissions that they release under Biden’s plan.

This act intends to help direct the U.S. toward net-zero emissions by 2050 and takes the climate impact of the globe into consideration of the price — not just the United State’s impact. As Texas struggles to recuperate from the damages to its power grid, it remains unclear how this proposal will affect the state, and how it will reshape its energy grid for the potential of future events like this.