The writer makes the case that the root cause of the Texas blackouts was public policy of the foolish kind.
Ratepayers and taxpayers don’t have unlimited funds to invest in energy infrastructure. One choice always comes at the expense of another. The problem with wind and solar power is that investment in unreliable renewable sources has displaced investment in electricity generation from reliable energy sources. Worse, these investment decisions weren’t made voluntarily by individuals in the free market. They were forced on Texans by politicians in Washington.
According to the nonprofit Texas Public Policy Foundation, for every 39 cents the oil-and-gas industry received in federal taxpayer subsidies from 2010 to 2019, the wind industry received $18.86, 48 times as much, and the solar industry received $82.46, 211 times as much. By 2029 Texans will have spent $2.5 billion subsidizing wind and solar farms through local property-tax abatements and $14 billion building the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone’s transmission lines through their electricity bills. While most businesses must pay to bring their product to market, wind and solar get a free ride from Texas taxpayers.
If you add it all up, Texas taxpayers and ratepayers will shell out an estimated $36 billion by the end of the decade to subsidize wind and solar energy. These subsidies have tripled wind and solar capacity in the Lone Star State in the past 10 years, but as Texans learned first-hand during the storm, there is a huge difference between capacity and generation.
Instead of seeking solutions that increase reliable generation, several Democrats in Congress have suggested the answer lies in connecting Ercot, Texas’ independent electricity grid, with the rest of the nation. As someone who lives in East Texas, one of the few parts of the state not served by Ercot, I can tell you first-hand this wouldn’t have prevented the blackouts—we lost power too. “Having a grid that could have drawn more power from other states would have done little to ease the crisis,” Loren Steffy wrote in Texas Monthly. “With most of the country also facing bitterly cold temperatures, the rest of the U.S. wouldn’t have had much to spare anyway.”
In sum, public policy created foolish investments in electrical generation. The same will occur with public policy that favors electric vehicles. Then, however, people will be trapped in their unpowered homes during blackouts, unable to flee to safety.