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Texas Winter Storm and Green New Deal

Published February 24, 2021

Storm Uri brought many things to Texas in 2021  - snow, freezing temperatures, and a Green New Deal.

Winter Storm Uri brought many things to Texas in the Winter of 2021  - snow, extreme freezing temperatures, and Texas's power grid's short fallings prompting a series of Texas relief efforts -  Food Bank of Rio Grande ValleyFeeding Texas, and Austin ECHO.  This natural disaster also revitalized new discussion on climate change and the Green New Deal, coined after former President Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal was sponsored in 2019 by New York Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Massachusetts Democrat Senator Edward Markey. While the New Deal was a social and economic program, the Green New Deal shares similar goals while also implementing energy efficiency and sustainability to transition American society to renewable energy by 2030, creating a new job market in clean energy industries. This resolution, however, died on the Senate floor after numerous Republican senators voiced their disbelief in climate change and concern for the damage a Green New Deal would cause to the country.

In 2021, the United States and Texas saw a Green New Deal's resurgence in the headlines. Texas is currently facing a climate crisis in a historic winter storm. Winter Storm Uri brought snow, extreme freezing temperatures, and the failure of Texas's power grid. With temperatures reaching negative fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, was forced to shut off their power plants because the equipment at these plants could not withstand or operate in frigid temperatures. This means that across Texas, almost 500,000 homes and businesses are still without power. While winter storms are bound to bring unprecedented results, Texas felt these results immensely harder. Texas is the only state, other than Alaska and Hawaii, that is not a part of the Eastern or Western Interconnection. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates these two major power grids in the United States and oversees interstate electricity, gas, and oil transmission. Texas does not fall under its jurisdiction because it supplies its energy. Thus, Texas does not need to abide by federal regulations that ensure preparedness for extreme conditions or disasters, such as Storm Uri. Most Texans pride themselves on their state's independence, but many are now reconsidering their support for ERCOT after experiencing the massive power outages' severe effects.

In all the chaos, Texans searched for answers to why Texas's infrastructure failures occurred and why Texas was not prepared. Texas's governor, Greg Abbott, ordered an emergency investigation into ERCOT and its decision to shut off the power, but not without accusing a Green New Deal for the power outage in Texas. This theory became popular among the Republican Party when frozen wind turbines were responsible for the power crisis. However, this claim has been disputed by ERCOT themselves, who reported that only 21% of the state's electricity relies on alternate energy sources. Natural gas overwhelmingly supplies 80% of the state's power supply. Natural gas works well under Texas's hot summers, but cold weather hinders fossil fuel flow to power plants. While all energy sources are currently strained, Iowa who frequently experiences freezing weather, also produces the largest wind energy percentage in the United States without state-wide power shortages.

In a storm of this magnitude, conversations of the importance and relevance of a Green New Deal have resurfaced. Climate change is no longer a prospect but a current event that needs reconsideration. If you are looking to support Texas relief efforts, please consider donating to the Food Bank of Rio Grande ValleyFeeding Texas, and Austin ECHO.  For more information on a Green New Deal, please refer to the online Green New Deal resolution.