The next energy industry
The second threat is related to climate change but different. It comes from the possibility that alternative energy sources like wind and solar power are becoming cheap enough to shrink Texas’ oil and gas industry.
“The cost advantage of solar and wind has become decisive, and promises to become vaster still,” Noah Smith, an economist and Texas native, wrote in his Substack newsletter. “I don’t want to see my home state become an economic backwater, shackled to the corpse of a dying fossil fuel age.”
Instead of investing adequately in new energy forms, though, many Texas politicians have tried to protect fossil fuels. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott went so far as to blame wind and solar energy — falsely — for causing the blackouts. The main culprit was the failure of natural gas, as these charts by my colleague Veronica Penney show.
As Smith explains, the best hope for Texas’ energy industry is probably to embrace wind and solar power, not to scapegoat them. The state, after all, gets plenty of wind and sun. “Texas can be the future, instead of fighting the future,” Smith wrote.
The future isn’t the past
The larger economic story here is a common one. Companies — and places — that have succeeded for decades with one technology rarely welcome change. Kodak didn’t encourage digital photography, and neither The New York Times nor The Wall Street Journal created Craigslist.
Texas’ political and business leaders have made a lot of successful moves in recent 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.