Dallas Morning News. September 18, 2002.
Editorial: Texas’ energy future is at risk
Legislators must protect wind, boost natural gas
Those of us who saw the power go out during the winter storm in 2021, or who worried through rolling blackouts in the record-breaking heat of the summer, are all too aware that Texas has an energy problem.
The nature of the problem is fairly simple: There are more of us in Texas than there ever were before, and just about every one of us is using more electricity to power our lives.
Fixing it is not simple. And the steps that legislators and energy leaders will have to take to stabilize our energy present and expand our energy future are about as serious as decisions get in public policy.
We are concerned about the direction things are headed, because they could risk the energy future this state has been building since Gov. Rick Perry helped set the stage for the state to become an international leader in wind power.
On Sept. 1, the State Energy Plan Advisory Committee — appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont — issued a lengthy report to legislators that might well indicate how Texas develops its energy future.The report is a deeply detailed and serious technical analysis of vulnerabilities in our state’s electrical grid, something that was exposed in the deadly outages of 2021.
That includes the complex ways Texas’ embrace of wind energy has affected the supply of electricity throughout the grid. Natural gas still accounts for the largest share of Texas energy. According to figures from the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, 42% of energy comes from natural gas, 24% comes from wind, 19% from coal, 10% from nuclear and 4% from solar. The share of wind has grown rapidly, and solar is set to increase substantially as well.
Wind energy, in particular, has been a boom industry in the state, and one worth celebrating. And no, wind energy was not the primary cause of the blackouts during the winter storm, as has been falsely stated a number of times.
But it is true, as the report correctly notes, that wind power did play a role, as did the lack of supply of natural gas. Turbine blades iced up and natural gas wellheads froze. Supply cratered and there wasn’t enough redundancy in the system to provide the power necessary to keep homes heated.
And even as extreme cold is a risk, we know the state is getting hotter while more and more people run air conditioners. On July 20, 2022, ERCOT recorded “an all-time maximum peak demand record of 80,038 megawatts,” the report notes.
The problem with our wind energy boom is that we have seen investment fall in what the energy industry calls “dispatchable” power. Natural gas has the benefit of storing its energy until it’s burned. Not so with wind. Either the wind blows or it doesn’t. Storing the power in batteries for dispatch later is not yet feasible at a large scale.
The report goes into this problem in some depth, noting that the increase in wind power has reduced the overall reliability of the Texas grid. An energy supply fleet “with large amounts of wind and solar is more difficult for ERCOT to maintain from an operational reliability standpoint, as demand and supply swing unpredictably.”
There is little doubt that is true, even if it is far from the only problem the Texas energy industry and market has to face.
What concerns us within the otherwise thorough and serious report is the recommendation to require wind energy producers to meet undefined reliability standards. That threatens to undermine the industry.
If Texas legislators decided that wind producers must back up their power generation with the purchase or production of dispatchable power, it would upend the economics of wind production.
That wouldn’t just be a thumb in the eye of environmentalists that some legislators might delight in. It would be a grave harm to the state’s ability to produce the power it needs to grow and prosper.
There is no question that the arrival of wind energy, and the increasing supply of solar energy, has disincentivized investment in natural gas power. That’s a good thing insofar as solar and wind energy are cheap and abundant. That’s a terrible thing in that we aren’t yet ready technologically to take the leap into a fully renewable future. And we won’t be for some time, absent a major technological breakthrough in power storage.
So we do need more dispatchable power. The foolish way to achieve that is by crippling another source of power that we need.
If legislative leaders are wise, they will instead study ways to incentivize dispatchable power production while welcoming the growth of solar and wind energy.
And in the meanwhile, they can take any number of other steps, recommended in the report and unrelated to renewable energy, to help shore up the grid. That includes things like speeding up the permitting process for transmission lines and making sure the Railroad Commission has finalized its weatherization rules for critical gas infrastructure.
Picking on the wind industry might be fun for politicians and their constituents who don’t know any better. But it’s one of the fastest ways to make energy more expensive and less abundant in our growing state.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram. September 16, 2022.
Editorial: Texas child-abuse investigators’ jobs are hard enough. Don’t drag them into trans kids debate
Texas suffered 235 child-abuse and neglect fatalities in a recent, typical year, according to state statistics. Department of Family and Protective Services workers investigate tens of thousands of possible abuse cases each year.
So, diverting resources to interfere with families’ decisions on transgender medical care, even in a tiny number of cases, is a mistake. Lawmakers may want to address restrictions on medical procedures when they convene next year, but handling cases through DFPS and the specific lens of child abuse isn’t the answer.
Several news outlets recently reported that on Aug. 30, school administrators pulled a 13-year-old transgender boy out of a middle-school class. A report of abuse had been filed, and a DFPS investigator began interviewing the minor about his medical history.
The teen’s mother signed a declaration describing the incident for a lawsuit by LGBTQ allies Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, who are trying to stop state investigations into families who are allowing their children to take cross-sex hormones or puberty blockers.
This all started in February, when Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a nonbinding legal opinion declaring that giving a child cross-sex hormones could be abuse because of their life-altering and often irreversible effects. Citing that opinion, Gov. Greg Abbott then instructed DFPS to investigate any claims of abuse that fit these descriptions.
Litigation had originally prompted a judge to halt investigations of abuse, but in May, the state Supreme Court overturned the injunction. So, DFPS has followed Abbott’s order and investigated a handful of reports.
In any abuse investigation, it makes sense to interview children in school and away from abusers, who are often parents or other family members who live with them.
But it’s the inclusion of transgender medical care in the abuse framework that is a problem. There are an array of opinions, even among medical professionals, about the appropriateness of cross-sex hormones or puberty blockers. But “abuse” is a serious charge that should be limited to parental neglect, causing physical or emotional harm to children, or dangerous or squalid living conditions.
Some unnecessary or harmful medical care certainly could qualify as abusive (see Factitious disorder imposed on another, previously called Munchausen syndrome by proxy). But this issue is too complex and in too much flux to ask state agents to sort it out — especially when they’re overwhelmed with standard abuse cases and a foster system that’s in dire need of repair.
Inevitably, transgender medical care for children will be addressed in the policy arena. Abbott has said to expect so in next year’s legislative session, and he’s signaled his support for a ban on surgical procedures (which are exceedingly rare for children) and perhaps other treatments.
Like all policy on controversial issues, there will be some gray areas, some nuance. But if lawmakers are truly concerned about children receiving hormones and drugs in advance of possible surgical procedures, they can debate restrictions through legislation.
A strict law to stop something only a handful of people might be doing also could be the definition of a legislative overreach.
Had Abbott and Paxton stayed out of it, perhaps the issue would have lost steam. After all, parents make bad, life-altering (but not exactly abusive) decisions on behalf of their children daily. If Republicans really favor parental rights as they say they do in the context of education and other issues, why not let this issue remain within families?
Whatever the legislative outcome, the last thing the DFPS needs to be doing is pulling kids from class and asking them why their parents are letting them take puberty blockers.
Child-abuse investigators and caseworkers have an overflowing workload with kids who need homes or who are suffering significant physical or emotional harm. State agents should remain focused on those kids, and lawmakers should find other ways to address the issue, if at all.
Houston Chronicle. September 16, 2022.
Editorial: How cowardly can Greg Abbott be? He just showed us in George Floyd case.
How cowardly can Gov. Greg Abbott get?
He showed us on Thursday. The state parole board finally rejected a posthumous pardon for George Floyd’s questionable 2004 drug conviction after months of uncertainty that wreaked of politics.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, not known to be a warm, fuzzy, compassionate entity, raised eyebrows in 2021 when it recommended that Abbott grant the posthumous pardon for Floyd, and then raised suspicions by abruptly rescinding it.
How did we get here?
The board’s vote to pardon Floyd had been unanimous. All that was left was Abbott’s approval, which he said he’d consider, before he suddenly went silent as the matter stalled. When the board took back its recommendation two months later, there was little explanation other than a procedural error that affected Floyd’s and 24 other requests.
Regardless, the decision had the desired consequence: Abbott, who is up for re-election and vying to be considered as a 2024 presidential contender, no longer had to make the tough choice between partisanship or justice.
“As a result of the Board’s withdrawal of the recommendation concerning George Floyd, Governor Abbott did not have the opportunity to consider it,” his press secretary said in a statement at the time.
How convenient. But really, what was there to consider?
His lawyer said the request “had already been through a compliance review,” according to the Texas Tribune, and that none of the parole board members had raised any issues.
The facts were simple enough.
The Houston cop who arrested Floyd for possession of what wasn’t even half a gram of crack cocaine turned out to be one of the most corrupt cops in recent Houston history. Years after Floyd’s arrest, the cop, Gerald Goines was fired following the disastrous and deadly Harding Street raid, which was conducted after officers obtained a no-knock warrant under false premises. In addition to other charges, Goines was indicted for two counts of felony murder.
The court noted his “propensity to be untruthful in his undercover drug assignments.” More than 100 cases were thrown out because of his involvement.
When Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, it was hardly the first injustice he had experienced. A pardon, even a posthumous one, offered a chance to set the record straight given the significant doubt around Goines’ police work.
“A man was set up by a corrupt police officer intent on securing arrests rather than pursuing justice,” Floyd’s lawyer, Allison Mathis, said last year. “No matter what your political affiliation is, no matter who that man was in his life or in his death, that is not something we should stand for in the United States or in Texas.”
It seems some political affiliations do preclude the pursuit of justice in certain situations. Justice for all only goes so far in Texas these days.
In 2020, Abbott attended the viewing at the Fountain of Praise Church where he bowed his head before Floyd’s open, gleaming golden casket lined with blue velvet. “George Floyd is going to change the arc of the future of the United States. George Floyd has not died in vain. His life will be a living legacy about the way that America and Texas responds to this tragedy,” Abbott told reporters outside.
For a man whose life ended in such unjust tragedy, the state’s unwillingness now to correct an even smaller injustice and to ensure that his legacy is rightfully remembered is petty and mean.
Floyd’s pardon has nothing to do with contentious police reform bills or political accusations of “defunding” law enforcement. It’s completely possible to “back the blue” while also backing justice and the fair reassessment of cases where bad cops tainted outcomes.
“This was a chance for Texas to do a small, good thing: to take an apolitical stance that no matter who a person is, their rights need to be respected and an accurate record of their life is important,” Mathis said in a statement to the Tribune following this week’s rejection from the parole board. She’ll be allowed to reapply in two years.
“(I)t is unclear to me what happened to completely reverse their decision,” Mathis said in her statement to the Tribune. We find ourselves similarly confused.
Is the governor so scared of upsetting his base that he cannot acknowledge that Floyd’s conviction is tied to some of the worst police work imaginable?
We won’t know because the board has conveniently taken the decision out of his hands. In the end, the gesture of a posthumous pardon is small. But not nearly as small as the man who denied it to someone as deserving as Floyd.