2021-02-22 11:34:20 | The Future of Texas – The New York Times

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Story by: David Leonhardt The New York Times World News

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The first is climate change, which is making Texas a less pleasant place to live. The number of 95-degree days has spiked, and severe hurricanes have become more common, including Harvey, which brutalized Houston and the Gulf Coast in 2017. Paradoxically, climate change may also be weakening the jet stream, making bouts of frigid weather more common.

On the national level, Texas politicians have played a central role in preventing action to slow climate change. On the local level, leaders have failed to prepare for the new era of extreme weather — including leaving the electricity grid vulnerable to last week’s cold spell, which in turn left millions of Texans without power and water.

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Many residents feel abandoned. In Copperas Cove, a city in central Texas, Daniel Peterson told my colleague Jack Healy on Saturday that he was utterly exasperated with the officials who had failed to restore power six days after it went out. He is planning to install a wood-burning stove, because, as he said, “This’ll happen again.”

In Dallas, Tumaini Criss spent the weekend worried that she would not be able to afford a new home for her and her three sons after a leaky pipe caved in her ceiling and destroyed appliances and furniture. “I don’t know where that leaves me,” she said.

The second threat is related to climate change but different. It comes from the possibility that alternative energy sources like wind and solar power are becoming cheap enough to shrink Texas’ oil and gas industry.

“The cost advantage of solar and wind has become decisive, and promises to become vaster still,” Noah Smith, an economist and Texas native, wrote in his Substack newsletter. “I don’t want to see my home state become an economic backwater, shackled to the corpse of a dying fossil fuel age.”

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Instead of investing adequately in new energy forms, though, many Texas politicians have tried to protect fossil fuels. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott went so far as to blame wind and solar energy — falsely — for causing the blackouts. The main culprit was the failure of natural gas, as these charts by my colleague Veronica Penney show.

As Smith explains, the best hope for Texas’ energy industry is probably to embrace wind and solar power, not to scapegoat them. The state, after all, gets plenty of wind and sun. “Texas can be the future, instead of fighting the future,” Smith wrote.

The larger economic story here is a common one. Companies — and places — that have succeeded for decades with one technology rarely welcome change. Kodak didn’t encourage digital photography, and neither The New York Times nor The Wall Street Journal created Craigslist.

Texas’ political and business leaders have made a lot of successful moves in recent decades. They have avoided some of the political sclerosis that has held back parts of the Northeast and California, like zoning restrictions that benefit aging homeowners at the expense of young families.

But Texas’ leaders are sacrificing the future for the present in a different way. They have helped their fossil fuel companies maximize short-term profits at the expense of the state’s long-term well-being. They have resisted regulation and investments that could have made their power grid more resilient to severe weather (as this Times story documents), and have tried to wish away climate change even as it forces Texans to endure more miserable weather.

In those ways, Texas is offering a different — and more worrisome — glimpse into the future.

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What’s happening now:

Sales of “computer glasses” are booming. The many companies that sell blue-light glasses — at prices from less than $20 to more than $100 — claim they can help relieve eye strain and improve sleep. But do we really need them?

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Source References: The New York Times World News

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