The first weeks of 2021 have been almost as turbulent as the first weeks of 2020, and it just keeps getting worse. As part of a massive system that affected much of the country, the winter storm that struck Texas created a disaster that no one saw coming. With temperatures below freezing, electricity demand surged in major cities and towns and the state’s power grid collapsed, leaving millions of residents without power for days on end.
This could only be a Texas disaster; years ago, the state insisted on separating its power grid from the national infrastructure, in order to deregulate the energy market and hand control of electricity delivery to private companies and energy retailers. The electrical grid also relies on fossil fuels, especially natural gas and oil, and not the renewable energies that many on the right, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, have inexplicably blamed for the failure of the free market.
Texas has a history of weak electricity infrastructure. According to an investigative report by the Texas Tribune and ProPublica, major Texas energy companies had failed to adequately prepare for severe conditions even after crippling losses to cold years ago that were followed by investigations and recommendations. The flaws were noticed and pointed out, and instead of addressing them, energy companies in the independent Texas electrical grid chose profit over providing for their patrons. Now, dozens of people are dead and many consumers are paying thousands of dollars more for electricity due to corporate price gouging.
The disastrous failure in Texas is a case in point about the need to reform the U.S.’s electrical grid. Experts estimate that the world only has about 50 years of oil left at current consumption rates. While the “shale revolution” has increased production in recent years, the future is green. It is time that the U.S. begin to implement renewable energies into its power grids, specifically wind, solar, and nuclear.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electricity production accounts for the second-largest emissions total of any sector in the U.S. at 27%, behind transportation at 28%, and almost two-thirds of that electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. A focus on generating power from renewable sources would decrease emissions, an imperative in the face of more impending disasters due to climate change. It also ensures long-term access to energy, as you can never run out of sun or wind, a concern that will grow more dire in the coming decades as fossil fuel resources dwindle.
Another reform to pursue should be the nationalization of the power grid. Many states have the ability to harness renewable energies, especially solar in the Southwest and wind in the Midwest, and a nationalized power grid would be able to transport this energy to other states around the country, including those that experience severe disruptions like Texas has. We have seen the weaknesses of privatized, fossil fuel-driven energy systems. It is time for the U.S. to change for the better.