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Meet the startup behind those massive Texas energy bills

Business Insider logo Business Insider 2/26/2021 bjones@businessinsider.com (Benji Jones)
Power lines in Texas City, Texas THOMAS SHEA/AFP via Getty Images © THOMAS SHEA/AFP via Getty Images Power lines in Texas City, Texas THOMAS SHEA/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to Insider Energy, a weekly energy newsletter brought to you by Business Insider.  

Here's what you need to know:

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. 

a group of people riding skis down a snow covered slope: A woman walks on an empty street on February 15, 2021 in East Austin, Texas Montinique Monroe/Getty Images © Montinique Monroe/Getty Images A woman walks on an empty street on February 15, 2021 in East Austin, Texas 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. 

Behind the big bills: Lawmakers also discussed how to provide relief for Texans facing enormous energy bills, most of which are due to a single energy company - Griddy

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.

Read more: A Texas startup had big plans to disrupt the state's $21 billion power market. Now its customers face enormous electricity bills.

a woman talking on a cell phone: Rep. Deb Haaland, Biden's pick for Interior Secretary Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images © Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images Rep. Deb Haaland, Biden's pick for Interior Secretary Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Granholm is confirmed as Energy Secretary, Haaland is grilled by climate deniers 


Video: Biden signs executive order on climate change: 'Our plans are ambitious' (NBC News)

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

Energy: Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm was confirmed Thursday to lead the Department of Energy. 

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.  
a flower in a field: The worst for oil markets is likely over, Morgan Stanley said in a note Tuesday. Todd Korol/Reuters © Todd Korol/Reuters The worst for oil markets is likely over, Morgan Stanley said in a note Tuesday. Todd Korol/Reuters

Oil erases pandemic losses, and now it's headed for a historic surge: Bank of America

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."

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 bjones@insider.com

That's it! Have a great weekend. 

- Benji 

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.

a dog sitting on top of a wooden table: Benji Jones © Benji Jones Benji Jones
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