• April 15, 2021

THE ECONOMIST: The Freeze - Odessa American: Ray Perryman Column

e-Edition Subscribe

THE ECONOMIST: The Freeze

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2021 5:30 am

The recent extreme winter weather is unprecedented in Texas. Records were shattered, and the cold lingered for a spell. Most people had to deal with power outages (sometimes for days in freezing temperatures) and millions had no water (again for an extended period). The resulting stress and suffering defies measurement, particularly coming on the heels of a year of COVID-19.

It will take some time for a full understanding of the damages and economic cost of the storm, but there is no doubt that it will be massive. We will track and assess information on an ongoing basis. Based on what we know at this point, we estimate the net loss in gross product over time will exceed $100 billion, with personal income losses of $70 billion and hundreds of thousands of lost years of work. The effects will almost certainly exceed those from Hurricanes Harvey and Ike, by far the most expensive weather events in Texas to date. Unlike a hurricane or tornado, the damage and business interruption has touched every corner of the state. All industries are affected, and supply chains have been disrupted. Much of the state business complex came to a standstill, affecting everything from consumer spending to manufacturing, oil production, agriculture, and beyond.

The reasons for the power outages are many and complicated. A common practice right now is to oversimplify and place all of the blame on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), wind turbines, competitive power markets, failure to adequately winterize, past legislative decisions, natural gas pipelines – you name it! The bottom line is that virtually everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and there’s ample blame to share.

Texas is a place where summers tend to be long and hot, but winters are shorter and generally mild for many parts of the state. It’s natural that our infrastructure is attuned to dealing with the problems we face most often. On a hot day, a typical home might need to be cooled 30 degrees compared to outside to be comfortable, while the recent cold was so extreme that 70-degree (or more) differentials were common. Needless to say, the demands on the power grid were exceptional, and when brutal conditions took down about 40% of generation capacity (wind turbines and conventional plants alike), disaster struck.

Clearly, the primary objectives should be learning valuable lessons and avoiding a repeat of what was an extremely disruptive and at times even tragic few days. The solutions will involve improvements in several areas (more on that later). The modifications require careful evaluation, not knee-jerk reactions. Identification and remediation of the underlying issues rather than band-aids on the symptoms is the best way forward. Stay safe!

Odessa, TX

Current Conditions

Cloudy
49°
Humidity: 89%
Winds: NE at 12mph
Feels Like: 45°

Your Extended Forecast

Today

weather
High 57°/Low 48°
A few thunderstorms possible. Lows overnight in the upper 40s.

Tomorrow

weather
High 66°/Low 58°
Morning thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 60s and lows in the upper 50s.

friday

weather
High 77°/Low 40°
Cloudy. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the low 40s.

saturday

weather
High 53°/Low 39°
Cloudy. Highs in the low 50s and lows in the upper 30s.
Online Features

Pet Central

pets

Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and we’ll help by giving you lots of tips and tricks! More >>

Fitness

Fitness

Our fitness articles will help teach you how to work out with gym- and home-based exercises. More >>

Crosswords

Crosswords

Enjoy the crosswords challenge in our free daily puzzles, from the harder Sunday crossword to the quicker daily. More >>

Sudoku

Sudoku

Every Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically. Enter numbers into the blank spaces so that each row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. More >>




  • ALL-ACCESS: Subscribe to our e-edition and premium website at myoaoa.com.
    You can read your daily newspaper without taking a walk to the driveway.
    Look back at yesterday's newspaper, or issues from months ago with our archive feature.
    Call circulation at 432-337-7314 to sign up today.