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Texas continued to dominate headlines this week, with lawmakers looking for where to hurl blame. They have plenty of options, including themselves.
Let’s start there.
Montinique Monroe/Getty Images
Blackouts and big bills: Who’s to blame for the Texas energy crisis?
That’s a question that lawmakers in the Lone Star State have been asking in state House and Senate hearings that began this week.
- “Who’s at fault?” state Rep. Todd Hunter, a Republican from Corpus Christi, said Thursday during the House hearing. “I want to hear who’s at fault. I want the public to know who screwed up.”
A true cluster: Texas Governor Greg Abbot blamed ERCOT, the nonprofit that manages the grid, while other lawmakers blamed the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT – and is led by a commissioner appointed by Abbot, The Texas Tribune reported.
- Legislation crafted by the very lawmakers questioning ERCOT and other entities also took heat for not mandating the kinds of safeguards that other deregulated states require.
- Lawmakers scrutinizing the energy industry “reap millions of dollars in unlimited political contributions from energy interests, more than any other sector,” ABC News reported.
- And then there were the energy producers themselves, which failed to provide enough power during the storm.
- What is Griddy? Check out the story we did this week on the Texas startup.
- When the company launched in 2017, it promised to save Texans money on their electricity bills. We explain what went wrong.
- The firm now faces a proposed class-action lawsuit.
What’s next: The hearings continue today and could result in new legislation and mandates for energy companies. There have already been some consequences.
- Five ERCOT board members resigned this week including the chairwoman Sally Talberg. All of them live outside Texas.
Granholm is confirmed as Energy Secretary, Haaland is grilled by climate deniers
Energy: Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm was confirmed Thursday to lead the Department of Energy.
- She’ll be at the center of Biden’s plan to ramp-up funding for clean-tech innovation.
- Granholm will also lead work to modernize the grid, which is likely to get more attention following the Texas disaster.
- Read our interview with Bill Gates, centered on climate innovation. He details what he wants the Biden administration to prioritize.
Interior: Meanwhile, Rep. Deb Haaland, Biden’s pick for Interior, faced hostile questions during her confirmation hearings this week from GOP Senators who deny climate science and are bankrolled by fossil-fuel interests.
- Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, and John Marshall of Kansas – who sit on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee – reject the scientific consensus that human activity fuels global warming, according to statements they’ve made in recent years, Insider’s Eliza Relman reports.
- “I’m not sure that there is even climate change,” Marshall said during an interview on a Kansas radio station in 2017. In a statement to Insider, Marshall claimed that the climate is “always changing.”
- Read Eliza’s full story here. For more on the Senators who are tied to fossil fuel interests, check out this piece from The Guardian.
Bank of America came out with a big prediction for oil this week: demand for crude could, over the next three years, rise faster than at any point in the last half-century.
- The growth in demand could push prices up to $100 a barrel – well beyond where they were before the pandemic caused demand to crash.
- Today, a barrel of Brent is trading for about $65.
Behind the surge: Unprecedented government stimulus, which fuels economic activity, and rising demand in China, a major market. Voluntary production cuts, led by Saudi Arabia, have helped, too.
Companies to benefit: “We’ve got buy ratings on pretty much all the oil names,” Doug Leggate, Bank of America’s head of oil and gas research told us earlier this year. “We think we are at the bottom of another significant cycle recovery in energy.”
- Bank of America detailed this week the 9 firms including Exxon and some of the European majors that appear best positioned.
LIVE EVENT: Join us March 8 to hear from leaders across the energy industry on building a new low-carbon economy
We’re hosting a panel with executives from Shell, Facebook, Oliver Wyman, and Form Energy on March 8. You can sign up here.
What we’ll discuss: My plan is to go beyond a fluffy conversation about the energy transition and break into some of the challenges companies face as they try to meet demands from investors, climate activists, and their employees. I also want to delve into the specific hurdles that remain on the technology front.
Got questions for them? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s it! Have a great weekend.
Ps. This week in Should I Return My Dog, Jumi found a mini Torah displayed on a shelf in my apartment and proceeded to shred it. Happy Purim.