has covered energy and environment for the Tribune since 2010. Previously she reported on clean energy for The New York Times from 2008 to 2009, serving as the lead writer for the Times' Green blog. She began her career at The Economist in 2000 and spent 2005 to 2007 in Austin as the magazine's Southwest correspondent. A Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University from 2007 to 2008, she has an undergraduate degree in English from Harvard and a master's degree from the London School of Economics. She is co-author of The Great Texas Wind Rush, a book about how the oil and gas state won the race to wind power.
Lots of Texans are asking that question in the wake of last week's electricity mess, and nobody's going to be happy with the answer, which is: "It depends" (if you ask the electricity industry); or "Yes" (if you ask consumer advocates).
Basically, Texas has its own grid to avoid dealing with — you guessed it — the feds. But grid independence has been violated a few times over the years — not even counting Mexico's help during last week's blackouts.
El Pasoans are not supposed to shower today. Or wash dishes, or do the laundry. The city is in the third day of a severe water shortage, which was partly caused by last week's rolling blackouts. Restrictions may be lifted tonight.
What happened yesterday to cause the rolling power blackouts across Texas? A chain reaction of problems involving the state's coal and gas appeared to be the cause — and wind plants were having trouble, too.
No secession ball will mark the day. But 150 years ago today, on Feb. 1, 1861, a state convention voted overwhelmingly to secede from the Union, against the fervent wishes of Gov. Sam Houston. Caught in the mess was one Robert E. Lee, a federal officer in what had become a rebel state.
From the highways of Texas to the San Jacinto Battleground, state agencies now aim to maximize the use of native grasses rather than opting for whatever was cheapest or fastest-growing, as they did decades ago.
When Texans turn on lights or plug in iPads, they are getting an increasing amount of power from the wind — and from coal plants. Last year, nearly 8 percent of the power on the state's electric grid was generated by wind, far above the national average. And coal plants produced more power than any other electricity source. The big loser was natural gas.
At the heart of Texas' wind-power boom lies a conundrum: Plenty of ranchers are eager to host wind turbines but few want to allow the unsightly high-voltage transmission lines needed to carry the power to distant cities. But state regulators are moving forward — and yesterday they approved a contentious project that runs through the Hill Country.
During a meeting today of the Public Utility Commission, chairman Barry Smitherman said that the Environmental Protection Agency was attempting to "disarm the U.S. economy," with a raft of rules covering everything from fly-ash waste from coal plants to new rules on greenhouse gases.