It was five years ago that I took this topic on for the first time. Louisiana was going through a series of huge storms and hundred year floods. And the people in charge of the state (and FEMA) were tired of going broke. They were spending big money every few years to rebuild the low-value shotgun shacks that populate the bayous and rural areas. Market value of these homes wasn’t more than 50 K (if that), but when you’re replaced one five times over the last 20 years, maybe it’s time to buy out the owners and condemn the land through eminent domain. But the problem was that Louisiana has lots of petroleum infrastructure. The companies can’t just walk away from it, and they can’t self-insure. Nobody was sure what to do. I thought we were looking at early-stage meltdown of capitalism. I wasn’t the only one. Activist and writer Kevin Hester thought much the same thing in 2019.
Yee-haw–welcome to Texas. This here picture was took in Houston 24 hours ago.
Texas is not used to really cold and snowy weather. It was therefore not ready for the humdinger storms coming through.
BUT IT SHOULD’VE BEEN
As more and more scientists want to point out, we’re not in the climate we had 50 years ago. As Jeff Masters of Weather Underground pointed out at a TED meeting nine years ago, we are in a different climate than we’re prepared for. You could also argue that we’re in a different climate than the INSURANCE ADJUSTERS planned for. And Texas has decided to make its utilities separate from the rest of the US. So the regulations that would’ve forced Texas utilities to protect their grid and make sure it didn’t get knocked offline? Didn’t apply. This was a political shit storm about protecting profits for the utility owners.
And anyone from Texas Governor Abbott on down defending the Texas public utilities is ignoring the LAST time Texas had a problem, in 2011. From Bloomberg:
Federal regulators warned Texas that its power plants couldn’t be counted on to reliably churn out electricity in bitterly cold conditions a decade ago, when the last deep freeze plunged 4 million people into the dark.
They recommended that utilities use more insulation, heat pipes and take other steps to winterize plants — strategies commonly observed in cooler climates but not in normally balmy Texas.
“Where did those recommendations go, and how were they implemented?” said Jeff Dennis, managing director of Advanced Energy Economy, an association of clean energy businesses. “Those are going to be some pretty key questions.”
This is a story that can be unfolded for months. I have no interest in all the machinations that are going to follow. We already know that Texas politics are crooked and uncaring for the people who live there. I’ve known about Texas since the days when the late Great Molly Ivins was blowing the whistle on the corruption and the ‘frenly bidness climate’ of the state. This was a train wreck waiting to happen. And as more states give into the siren song of the GOP, more states will look the other way on preparing for the disasters that global warming will bring.
The unfolding events I expect are the ones you can see elsewhere. In the meantime, the unfairly-maligned Dr. Guy McPherson points out the changes to climate that made Texas a snowbound Hell. If will take four minutes of your life and (unlike assertions from Texans like Governor Abbott or Rick Perry) these are actually true.
It’s going to take awhile for all of this to unwind. And over the past ten years, I’ve expected mendacity to be the battle plan for the climate deniers and skeptics. I’m pretty much burned out. But it’s a growing truth. Capitalism is anchored to stable climate. and seeing the climate collapse is a given.