Biden’s Visit to Texas Underscores the Need to Address the Climate Crisis with Bold Infrastructure Investment

Washington, D.C. — Today, President Joe Biden traveled to Houston, Texas to tour recovery efforts after severe winter storms fueled by climate change devastated the state, leading to at least 32 deaths, power outages for 3.4 million people, and skyrocketing energy bills

The President met with Republican Governor Gregg Abbott and other local leaders at the Harris County Emergency Operations Center to discuss the devastation of winter storm Uri and ongoing recovery efforts. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned that we are still weeks away from knowing the true cost of Uri’s impact on homes and businesses. 

“What happened in Texas is a preview of what the climate crisis will look like — coast to coast —  if we fail to make transformational infrastructure investments now, ” said Lori Lodes, Executive Director of Climate Power. “President Biden knows we have to build back better and work  together towards a clean energy future that will protect the communities most vulnerable to climate change and create millions of good-paying union jobs across the country. ”

Texas has been devastated year after year by the climate crisis, with the state experiencing severe hurricanes, flooding, and winter weather. Even as the climate crisis makes extreme weather events more intense and more frequent, many Texas legislators continue denying the reality of climate change and ignoring science. Instead of following the science, these deniers put the needs of their fossil fuel donors first, offering no solutions to combat climate change and refusing to modernize our failing infrastructure, as their constituents pay the price of their inaction.

After years of neglect, the Texas electrical grid collapsed, knocking out power in much of Texas after natural gas, coal, and nuclear generators failed. These failures were caused by Texas climate deniers’ lack of investment, deregulation, and their repeated failure to prepare for extreme weather events.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have a once in generation opportunity to invest boldly to modernize our infrastructure to meet the demands of climate change, while creating millions of good paying union jobs in the process. Now more than ever before, we have a chance to move away from unreliable oil, gas, and coal towards a sustainable future, under a President that recognizes the climate crisis and is willing to take bold action and lead. The price of inaction is far too high. 

Below  is more information on clean energy and the need to invest in  infrastructure now:

    • Renewable sources generated a fifth of U.S. power in 2020, with output rising to 755TWh from 736TWh in 2019. Renewables made record contributions to the power grid with production rising 11% since 2019. 
    • Investing grid modernization will create jobs. A 2020 report from E2 showed that with even a modest investment of $25.4 billion in grid modernization, we can create 73,100 direct, indirect, and induced jobs nationally each year for 5 years, including 6,108 jobs in Texas.
    • Jobs from investing in energy efficiency: A 2020 report from E2 showed that with even a modest investment of $60.7 billion in accelerating building energy efficiency, we can create 737,200 direct, indirect, and induced jobs nationally each year for 5 years, including 60,547 jobs in Texas. Texas stands to realize the largest job gains of any state.
    • Wind and solar are already the cheapest sources of electricity in the United States. In most of the U.S. today, it’s cheaper to build a new solar or wind farm than keep an existing coal plant running.
      • Between 2010 and 2019, the cost of large, utility scale solar projects (where energy is converted directly into electricity) fell by 82%.
      • Cheaper energy will allow operators to build more capacity, helping to hedge against future blackouts.
  • By investing in electric vehicles, we can further stabilize the grid. Electric vehicles can act as large, mobile batteries that supply energy to the grid in times of high demand, and provide electricity to community resilience centers if the grid fails. Utilities including Duke Energy already support electric vehicle initiatives for this reason.

Additionally, below is the most up-to-date data  on the devastating consequences of Winter Storm Uri in Texas:

  • As of Friday morning, around 15,000 power outages were reported across Texas. 
  • As of Thursday, more than 1 million people in Texas remained under boil water notices. A peak of 14.9 million Texans faced water disruptions on Friday, 2/19, and more than 1,100 boil water notices issued following the storm have since been rescinded. 
  • The Perryman Group, a Texas-based economic research firm, estimated the cost of damage caused by winter storm Uri could top $295 billion – rivaling the costs of both hurricanes Ike and Harvey. 
  • As of Monday, state agencies reported spending $41 million on the storm, and local governments had spent $49 million.
  • The storm’s damage to Texas’ agriculture sector could last for several seasons. Produce farmers in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley lost tons of vegetables in the storm, and around half of the state’s citrus harvest was destroyed. 
  • Healthcare providers in Texas expressed concern that COVID-19 cases in the state will rise after people gathered in shelters to stay warm during the storm.
  • During the winter storm and power crisis, oil refineries, chemical plants and other industrial operators reported emitted 3.5 million pounds of excess pollution.
  • Renewable energy sources were much more reliable in extreme weather caused by winter storm Uri, in comparison with fossil fuel sources. 
  • Renewable energy has reduced the price of electricity. More renewable energy sources and infrastructure has helped local providers to decrease the energy price considerably.