Uncommon Sense

February 20, 2021

Should We Treat Texas’s Self-Inflicted Wound?

In 2011, Texas faced a very similar storm that froze natural gas wells and affected coal plants and wind turbines, leading to power outages across the state. A decade later, Texas power generators have still not made all the investments necessary to prevent plants from tripping offline during extreme cold, experts said. These changes were not required of energy producers, merely recommended.

Other states can buy power from surrounding states to meet spiking demands. That’s because the continental US is powered by two big, highly connected grids: the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection. Texas, however, has insisted on having its own grid with little connection to the other two grids. It’s a point of pride for politicians there, who claim the state has “energy independence.”

So, even after seeing what can happen and being warned that extreme weather events are going to be more common dues to climate change, Texas took no action. Texas is also a conservative state that hammers home the principle of individual responsibility.

So . . .

So . . . the question is, should we, in the form of the federal government, bail out the state of Texas for their own bad behavior or should we insist upon individual responsibility of the state as a whole. This is a classic case, often used by conservatives, of a moral hazard. If we bail them out, we are rewarding their bad behavior. Heads they win, tails we lose.

This is compounded by the fact that the same thing happened ten years ago and all of the solutions to the problems then exposed were and are available and not particularly expensive.

Conservatives often say that we can “trust corporations as they would never do anything that would harm their reputations.” Apparently not.

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