As residents across Texas are finding out, everything really is bigger in the Lone Star State – including energy problems. Early February blizzards swept through the Texan plains, wiping out electrical infrastructure statewide.
The situation quickly became so dire that utility companies turned to Mexico to supply extra energy capacity. At first Mexican companies seemed amenable. Then they pulled out, leaving Texas out in the cold.
Should Texas be dependent on energy produced by foreign nations, be it oil or coal or natural gas? The new year’s blizzards hammer home just how important a secure energy infrastructure is to American security.
That poses a challenge for Republican Governor Rick Perry, who promotes alternative energy, not because he believes in climate change (he’s a skeptic), but to help achieve energy independence.
Perry was dead-on during a 2008 wind farm opening: “More than half of the jobs created in the U.S. in the past year were in Texas. Those jobs mean more office buildings, manufacturing facilities and communities to support them. And they all need energy.”
Texas won’t meet Perry’s goal of energy independence without sustained research into alternative energy sources. As it is, America risks overburdening a tangle of aging transmission lines. If American energy consumption continues to climb without an electrical grid capable of incorporating wind, solar and other clean technologies, Texas can expect to deal with more rolling blackouts in the future.
Transitioning from coal and traditional electricity generation won’t just help Texas avoid blackouts at hospitals, it could improve air and water quality in neighboring states. Texas is the second-largest state in the country, encompassing over 260,000 square miles, and its coal plants cast fumes and pollution as far afield as Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. That’s a big state with a big environmental impact.
Not everything about Texas is doom and gloom. Its size makes Texas a potentially powerful player in clean energy generation. Hundreds of thousands of square miles of open space are perfect for experimenting with new techniques in wind and solar energy production. Central Texas is already home to the largest wind farm in America, covering nearly 30,000 acres.
What Texas needs now is a concerted effort by citizens and public officials to turn Texas into the clean tech center of the world. Planet Forward users have some promising ideas.
Contributor Raymond Huhnke showed us how wind energy can be used to produce ethanol, giving Texans a two-for-one deal on clean energy. Huhnke’s proposal could make use of pre-existing wind infrastructure while fostering a push to expand.
In order to secure Texans from the health and security risks of traditional energy dependence, politicians from both parties must seek compromise. If they can, the day may come when a major blizzard won’t bring state infrastructure to a halt. That’s real energy security.