From 1950 to 1957, Texas suffered what many have called the grandfather of all droughts. It was the worst drought in Texas recorded history. A joke at the time recounts the arrival of a new settler in West Texas who admires the grasslands and notes, “This would be a fine country if it only had water.” A grizzled farmer packing up his things to leave his bankrupt land replies, “So would Hell.”
During the drought, Texas’ rainfall declined 40% from 1949 to 1950; by 1953, 75% of Texas had below normal rainfall and the drought had spread to Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. By 1954, the drought encompassed a ten state area which began to experience dust storms—the first since the 1930s.
The drought was accompanied by excessive high temperatures. In 1953, the temperature in Dallas exceeded 100 degrees for fifty-two straight days. And, that was when few homes had air conditioners. Texas agriculture was devastated. In 1947, Texas produced 124 million bushels of wheat valued at $210 million. In 1956, the wheat crop yielded 26.4 million bushels valued at $51.5 million.
Cities across Texas, including Dallas, hired Dr. Irving Krick and his Water Resources Development Corporation of Denver to seed clouds. Some towns employed rain dancers.
I remember those days and the little oscillating fans set about the house to stir the hot air. We had a small fan which fit in the window frame and sucked hot air into the house, along with dust and bugs. Having lived through the grandfather of all droughts, seventy-two years from its inception, I have now lived through the grandfather of all Texas cold spells, which the weather bureaucrats named Uri. Frankly, I would prefer to not live through another greatest natural disaster in history.
While we had no cool air to see us through the drought, during Uri’s wrath, we had little heat to see us through the cold which fell to minus numbers one night. From Sunday, February 14 to Tuesday, February 16, the average temperature in Dallas was 10.8 degrees. From Sunday to Thursday, my home and most of our town had electric power for about six hours. The only heat we had to comfort us was from a small gas fireplace in our den.
Everyone in the nation has read about our recent experience. Many folks north of the Mason-Dixon Line have laughed at us. But, many of those hypocrites up north forget that for decades Texas has been a major producer of that black gooey stuff which warms their homes and businesses.
This cold spell didn’t expose the electricity problem in Texas. For years, every summer when the temps reach 100, our power grid is strained and plagued with brownouts. The state’s politicians have known about this for decades—nothing has been done.
An increasing source of electric power in Texas is by wind. Texas leads the nation in wind generated power. The problem with wind generated power is it has become a major source—approximately 20% of all Texas electricity is from wind—instead of a supplement to the fossil fueled power of most of our generating plants. Other problems arise with wind power: in cold weather with moisture the blades become iced and cannot turn the generators; and when the wind blows too strongly across the West Texas plains, as it often does in the summer, the windmills are shut down because they cannot withstand the strong breeze.
Many Texas electric generating plants have been shut down in recent years. Most of them were fueled with fossil energy. Many of our current generating plants are aged and in need of upgrades or repair. However, federal rules, put in place by liberal politicians and bureaucrats, require that if an existing generating plant is added onto or any portion of the plant is upgraded, the entire plant must be upgraded. That is an unreasonable financial burden which utility companies cannot afford. So, we continue to plod along with aging plants which cannot keep up with the demand, and in extreme cold or heat, cannot operate at capacity or with efficiency, or they break down.
While our recent experience didn’t reveal weaknesses, it educated us. First, renewable energy is not reliable. It is not, and there is not, any reliable substitute for fossil fuel driven energy. We also learned how federal regulations, promulgated by liberal policies, have stymied our ability to live a comfortable life.
Then, there is ERCOT, the 501 (c) (4) charitable organization that oversees the Texas power grid. The Texas Observer recently reported the president and chief executive officer of ERCOT, had a salary of $876, 334 in 2019, according to ERCOT’s tax filings. Also, the Observer article said twenty ERCOT executives received salaries of between $200,000 and $548,000.
The Observer article states that after the near blackout in 2011, another February extreme cold spell when 193 generating plants faltered and caused rolling blackouts, salaries of top ERCOT executives rose by 50% between 2012 and 2019. While the top dogs at ERCOT were enriching themselves, they made no plans in the past decade to winterize generating plants, and the Texas Public Utility Commission took no action to require winterization. ERCOT also failed to include extreme weather conditions in their supply and demand models.
As ERCOT became the center of attention in the Texas disaster, we learned that several board members, including the chairman and vice chairman, do not live in Texas. And, it must be only coincidence that those board members and several others are supporters of liberal Democrats.
It has been my observation that flim-flam politicians and bureaucrats who are not successful in the private sector seem to gravitate to not-for-profit organizations, often creating them for some cause, where they can set high salaries and high travel expenses for themselves at the expense of well-intentioned people sucked in by the pleas to help such and such cause.
Millions of Texans suffered, some died, because: politicians in Texas did not act on known needs; greedy out-of-staters found a goldmine in a not-for-profit organization and neglected their mission; radical environmentalists—who have captured the imaginations of millions of people and gaggles of politicians with their doomsday predictions of the end of the planet if we do not save it from man’s own sins against it—continue their unrelenting attack on fossil fuels with their insistence on unreliable power sources.© Jim Terry
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