Sunday marked the 61st day this summer that temperatures soared above 100 degrees in the Dallas-Ft Worth area. The Sunday high temperature was 106. At my home in Denton, we have received just a quarter inch of rain in the last 90 days.
Texas has hot, dry summers but this is extreme. The drought is now the worst in over 50 years. The economic consequences may spill over state lines and could even impact the international energy markets because water restrictions are causing problems for the energy companies water fracturing used to extract gas and oil from shale formations.
How much has the drought and heat cost Texas? Economist Dr. Ray Perryman:
Crop and livestock issues resulting from this drought could be devastating, potentially doubling the previous record of $4.1 billion occurring in 2006, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Strong demand for these products, coupled with an already restricted world supply, contribute to the high-dollar losses. With associated multiplier effects, these losses could exceed $20 billion. Moreover, in many instances, it takes years to restore prior yields even when the rains come.
In my area, the farmers gave up early on the grain sorghum crop, baling what they could for feed. In a state where there are more cows than people, the pastures are either burned out by the massive wildfires of late spring or dried out by the lack of rain. Cattlemen are selling off their livestock, liquidating even their mother cows since there is no natural forage left. There will be long term consequences to this in the form of higher beef prices and failed ranches.
The extreme heat is also hurting retail sales as shoppers are trying to deal with sky-high electric bills, in many cases 40% above the same time last year. As all the economic distress filters through the Texas economy, it could impact the unemployment rate in Texas. With the huge inflow of people searching for Texas jobs, the state has struggled to lower its 8.2 percent unemployment rate, even though it leads the nation in new job creation.
To add to the problems, the EPA is cracking down on Texas to reduce its emmisions. The Texas electrical grid is barely keeping up with demand during this hot spell. The only way Texas can meet the new EPA standards is to shutter some coal plants and that would cause rolling blackouts if current demand is unchanged.
The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates surface mining of coal, called on the state’s attorney general to challenge the EPA’s pollution rules.
The commission said the EPA is making flawed decisions and blames an “overzealous” U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration for deliberately moving to hurt the Texas economy. Commission Member David Porter said the EPA’s rules means coal-fired power plants in the state have no option but to reduce output at a time when many Texans are facing a stifling heat wave.
“Don’t mess with Texas,” added commission Chairwoman Elizabeth Ames Jones in her statement. — UPI.com, Read more here.
All this economic stress could even hurt Governor Rick Perry’s run for the Republican nomination for president. Much of Perry’s appeal comes from the job story and economic success of Texas. Should Texas unemployment numbers creep up from the heat and drought conditions, Perry’s appeal might be dampened.
Bottom line, Texas needs rain and a lot of it. This Texan would take an Irene category hurricane coming ashore maybe 50 miles west of Galveston and tracking up the center of he state. Yeah, it’s that bad.