American Promise
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American Promise

texas national guard push a truck in texas winter storm 2021
(By The National Guard via Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Texas’s Big Money-Driven Energy Crisis

The Fallout from the Winter Storm in Texas Was Fueled by Political Spending

By Ann Drumm, American Promise North Texas Chapter Leader

On Feb. 10, members of the Texas state House of Representatives launched the legislature’s first ever climate, environment and energy caucus. On Feb. 16, Dallas-Fort Worth hit -2 degrees, the coldest day in North Texas in 72 years.

The Democrats who formed the new caucus announced a modest goal: to hold at least one hearing on climate change during this legislative session. The Texas Tribune reported that “caucus members acknowledged that getting Texas Republicans to discuss climate change, which has become a fiercely partisan issue in a state where the oil and gas industry wields huge political clout, remains an uphill battle for Democrats.”

That’s reinforced by reporting on OpenSecrets.org that “the oil and gas sector regularly pumps the vast majority of its campaign contributions into Republican coffers. Even as other traditionally GOP-inclined industries have shifted somewhat to the left, this sector has remained rock-solid red.” Republicans control both the executive and legislative branches of Texas state government.

Before I launched the North Texas chapter of American Promise, I was (and remain) an advocate for a conservative policy approach to address climate change. I embraced democracy reform out of frustration about the way big money impedes even conservative climate policy.

But there’s a generational divide among Republicans on this issue. According to an October 2019 poll, 70% of Texas Republicans under 40 said climate change is happening, while only 33% of their elders agreed.

I wonder if the health and economic impacts of the COVID pandemic, combined with the misery of this storm, might make that divide even more consequential and create openings for climate and democracy advocates.

At this writing, about 80 fellow Texans have died because of this storm. The rest of us suffered from failures of the energy, water and transportation systems. But the most consequential metric may be financial: structural damage from frozen pipes will help make this the costliest disaster in the state’s history, surpassing losses from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Climate change presents great opportunities for Texas. Preparing the grid for increased demand as we electrify buildings and transportation, and generating the clean energy to feed that grid, will create good jobs. Making buildings more energy efficient and hardening them against weather extremes will make us more resilient and save lives.

Democracy advocates can help climate advocates push back against the monied forces that protect the status quo by changing the system that empowers big money’s grip on policy. My way of supporting climate action is to prepare Texas to ratify the 28th Amendment. I intend to speak to every Young Republican club that will have me; they just may be the ones who save our beloved state.

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American Promise is a nationwide, cross-partisan network of Americans working to ratify a constitutional amendment to end unlimited, concentrated and unaccountable money in our political system, and secure equal rights and effective representation.

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American Promise

American Promise

American Promise is a nationwide, cross-partisan network of people advancing a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics.

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