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ALL ABOUT TEXAS:
What you need to know about Texas’s energy woes: Texas’s electric grid has been thrust into the national spotlight amid a deadly winter storm that left 2.7 million households without power as of Wednesday morning.
The grid that typically brings electricity to homes and businesses buckled under the frigid temperatures, leading to unexpected rolling blackouts.
The problem ranges from having a unique, but isolated, state-run grid to a reliance on natural gas operations that struggled under the cold temperatures.
Read more about the big picture here.
The deeper dive… The devastating effects of the historic winter storm that hit Texas and parts of the Midwest are raising alarms about the ability of state power grids to handle extreme weather.
Power grids that have often been tested during summer heat waves are now feeling the strain and in many cases are failing amid frigid temperatures.
The Lone Star State was caught off guard by historically low temperatures that spurred record demand in energy consumption as heating systems were tapped to run nearly 24/7.
At the same time, the state’s nuclear, coal, natural gas and wind facilities have all struggled in the cold weather, exposing vulnerabilities of both renewable and traditional energy sources.
Texas wind turbines haven’t been equipped with the same winterization packages as those in the northern U.S., while machinery for other sources wasn’t as well insulated and struggled with water intake issues in the frigid temperatures.
“There is no single source that came through this unscathed,” said Daniel Cohan, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston.
Read more on that here.
Millions of Texans may beg to differ… Former Texas Gov. Rick PerryRick PerryJudge blocks Texas effort to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid Overnight Health Care: Biden commits to ,400 checks, but open to eligibility limits | CDC director: Teacher vaccination ‘not a prerequisite’ for safe school reopening | Coronavirus infections, hospitalizations falling Planned Parenthood files emergency lawsuit to stay in Texas Medicaid program MORE (R) on Wednesday suggested that the people of the Lone Star State would rather spend more time without electricity than see increased federal involvement in their state.
“Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” a blog post on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyEx-Sen. Jeff Flake calls for Republican Party to leave Trump: ‘We should have’ convicted him Juan Williams: Bring sanity back to the GOP Some reflections on fissures at an impeachment exhibition MORE’s (R-Calif.) website quoted Perry as saying, though the post says Perry’s remark was made “partly rhetorically.“
The remark from the former Energy Secretary comes as many parts of Texas remain without electricity amid a record-setting winter storm. More than a dozen deaths have been linked to the crisis.
Read more on his comments here.
There are, of course, other political considerations as well… Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is coming under intense scrutiny over his handling of mass power outages in the state caused by harsh winter weather conditions, as he prepares to run for reelection next year on the heels of two major disasters.
State Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa accused Abbott of “playing politics with alternative sources of energy” in a statement on Monday, saying that as Lone Star State residents struggle, the governor “continues to relax and wait.”
Julián Castro, the former Democratic mayor of San Antonio and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Obama, tweeted that Abbott “failed to prepare for this storm, was too slow to respond, and now blames everyone but himself for this mess.”
The emergency comes as Abbott prepares to run for his third term as governor. A University of Houston poll released earlier this month showed him with a 39 percent approval rating. President BidenJoe BidenBiden balks at K student loan forgiveness plan Biden offers to help woman in obtaining vaccine for son with preexisting condition Biden optimistic US will be in ‘very different circumstance’ with pandemic by Christmas MORE, who lost Texas in the 2020 election, had a higher approval rating at 41 percent.
Read more on the impact on the race here.
THE HONEYMOONERS: President Biden is enjoying a honeymoon with many environmental advocates after coming under criticism during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from green activist groups pressing him to be more ambitious on climate change.
Biden gained favor from a number of groups after winning the Democratic nomination by shifting to the left on climate change and working with progressives, some with ties to Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersCotton, Romney introduce bill pairing minimum wage increase with tighter citizenship verification Restaurant association warns Congress on minimum wage hike The Memo: Biden steps out of Trump’s shadow MORE (I-Vt.), as part of a unity effort.
Since taking office, Biden has revoked a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, rejoined the Paris climate agreement and issued a temporary pause on new oil and gas leases for federal lands.
The moves come with some risks for Biden even as they have drawn applause from climate groups.
Republicans aiming to cast Biden’s politics as hurting the economy have blasted the Keystone and leasing decisions, and there has been some criticism from centrist Democrats such as Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOn The Money: Democrats make historic push for aid, equity for Black farmers | Key players to watch in minimum wage fight Biden pledges action on guns amid resistance Key players to watch in minimum wage fight MORE (W.Va.).
Yet as Biden keeps an eye on that flank of his party, his administration also could face tests in the coming months from climate groups.
Read more on what’s next here.
MAKE ROOM FOR THE VROOM: Electric vehicles are poised to become an important tool in President Biden’s arsenal as his administration starts implementing policies to fight climate change.
Both administration officials and congressional Democrats in recent weeks have signaled plans to expand the number of electric vehicles in the U.S., with automakers making pledges to expand their electric fleets.
The extent of the environmental benefits of that switch, however, depends in large part on ensuring the electricity comes from cleaner sources and will require infrastructure investments.
Read more on Biden’s plans for EVs here.
HAALAND HEARING: Senators on the chamber’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee will question Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOvernight Energy: Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says ‘undermined’ conservation program | Biden administration delays Trump rule allowing companies to pay less money for drilling on federal lands Grijalva hopes to work with Haaland to ‘repair’ Interior New Mexico legislature advancing bipartisan redistricting reform MORE, who President Biden nominated to lead the Interior Department, on Tuesday Feb. 23 during her confirmation hearing.
COMMITTING TO SUBCOMMITTEES: The House Natural Resources Committee announced its vice chairs and the leaders of its subcommittees on Wednesday. Rep. Chuy García (D-Ill.) will be vice chair and Rep. Gregorio Sablan, who represents the Northern Mariana Islands, will be the vice chair for insular affairs. Rep Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalLawmakers briefed on ‘horrifying,’ ‘chilling’ security threats ahead of inauguration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten key air pollution standards | Despite risks to polar bears, Trump pushes ahead with oil exploration in Arctic | Biden to champion climate action in 2021 Democrats question legality of speedy Arctic refuge oil lease sales MORE (D-Calif.) will lead the subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources; Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) will lead the subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States; Rep. Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseDemocratic impeachment manager: Trump trial could have lasted years if witnesses were called Democrats warn of ‘whataboutism’ ahead of Trump defense LIVE COVERAGE: Trial ends for day as Senate moves to vote MORE (D-Colo.) will lead the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands; Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) will lead the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanDemocrats seek to block further Arctic drilling House adopts fines for lawmakers who don’t comply with metal detectors Democrats seek to make guns in the Capitol illegal — for everyone MORE (D-Calif.) will lead the subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife.
WHAT WE’RE READING:
Firefighters’ Catch-22: Protective gear full of carcinogens, E&E News reports
Firefighters face lies, ‘phony’ studies on PFAS exposure, E&E News reports
Texas blackouts show the power grid isn’t ready for climate change, The Los Angeles Times reports
Texas Blackouts Hit Minority Neighborhoods Especially Hard, The New York Times reports
ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday…
Five things to know about Texas’s strained electric grid
Electric vehicles are poised to aid Biden in climate fight
Texas snowstorm wreaks havoc on state power grid
Texas governor faces criticism over handling of winter storm fallout
Biden honeymoon with green groups faces tests
Ford vows to produce only electric passenger vehicles in Europe by 2030
Rick Perry: ‘Texans would be without electricity for longer‘ to ‘keep the federal government out’