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Hello. We take a look at the great economic forces in Texas – and a threat to its future.
You can argue that the US state with the best long-term economic future is Texas.
It’s a more affordable place to live than most of the northeast or west coast, and it still has powerful means to attract new residents, including a thriving cultural scene, diverse population, and research universities from around the world. foreground. Its elementary schools and colleges perform well above average in reading and math (and notably ahead of those in California), according to the Urban Institute.
These strengths have helped Texas’ population grow by over 15%, or about four million people, over the past decade. In recent months, two top tech companies – Oracle and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise – have announced that they will be moving their headquarters to the state, and Tesla may soon follow suit. Much like California in the 20th century, Texas today resembles a state that can embody and shape the future of the country.
But Texas also has a big problem, as the world has just seen. The fossil fuel problem is a useful way to think about it.
‘It will happen again’
Even with its growing tech and healthcare industries, the Texas economy revolves around oil and gas. And these fossil fuels have created two threats to the state’s economic future.
The first is climate change, which is making Texas a less pleasant place to live. The number of 95-degree days has increased and severe hurricanes have become more common, including Harvey, which brutalized Houston and the Gulf Coast in 2017. Ironically, climate change can also weaken the jet stream, making it more common freezing weather episodes.
Nationally, Texas politicians have played a pivotal role in preventing action to slow climate change. At the local level, leaders have failed to prepare for the new era of extreme weather – including leaving the power grid vulnerable to last week’s cold snap, which in turn left millions of Texans without electricity or water.
Many residents feel abandoned. In Copperas Cove, a town in central Texas, Daniel Peterson told my colleague Jack Healy on Saturday that he was completely exasperated by officials who had failed to restore power six days after it was cut. He is considering installing a wood stove because, as he said, “it will happen again.”
In Dallas, Tumaini Criss spent the weekend fearful that she would not be able to afford a new home for herself and her three sons after a leaking pipe collapsed into her ceiling and destroyed appliances and furniture . “I don’t know where this is taking me,” she said.
In San Antonio, Juan Flores, a 73-year-old Navy veteran, told my colleague Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio that he was frustrated by the lack of communication from local officials. When Giulia interviewed Flores, he hadn’t showered in days (and graciously warned her to take a step back by questioning her, saying, “I stink”). To get enough water to flush the toilet, he had gone to a bar. To heat his apartment, he boiled water on his stove.
The next energy industry
The second threat is linked to climate change but different. This comes from the possibility that alternative energy sources like wind and solar power will become cheap enough to take down the Texas oil and gas industry.
“The cost advantage of solar and wind power has become decisive and promises to become even greater,” wrote Noah Smith, economist and native of Texas, in his newsletter Substack. “I don’t want to see my home state become an economic backwater, chained to the corpse of a dying fossil fuel age.”
Instead of adequately investing in new forms of energy, however, many Texas politicians have tried to protect fossil fuels. Governor Greg Abbott last week went so far as to blame wind and solar power – wrongly – for causing the power outages. The main culprit was the blackout of natural gas, as these graphs from my colleague Veronica Penney show.
As Smith explains, probably the best hope for the Texas energy industry is to embrace wind and solar power, not the scapegoat. The state, after all, gets a lot of wind and sun. “Texas can be the future, instead of fighting the future,” Smith wrote.
The future is not the past
The larger economic history here is common. Businesses – and places – that have been successful for decades with a single technology rarely welcome change. Kodak did not promote digital photography, and neither the New York Times nor the Wall Street Journal created Craigslist.
Texas political and business leaders have taken many successful steps over the past 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 rulers are sacrificing the future for the present in a different way. They have helped their fossil fuel companies maximize their short-term profits at the expense of the long-term welfare of the state. They resisted regulation and investments that could have made their power grid more weather-resilient (as the Times story shows), and tried to reject climate change even as it forced Texans to endure harsh harsh conditions. more miserable weather conditions.
In this way, Texas offers a different – and more disturbing – glimpse into the future.
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