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Dark clouds over houses, electricity horizon – Llewellyn King

Two dark clouds, not often mentioned by politicians, are forming on the American horizon.  It's the housing crisis and the growing threat of electricity shortages.

Two dark clouds, not often mentioned by politicians, are forming on the American horizon. It’s the housing crisis and the growing threat of electricity shortages.

BrianAJackson/Getty Images

Two dark clouds, not often mentioned by politicians, are forming on the American horizon. It’s the housing crisis and the growing threat of electricity shortages.

The housing crisis has not gotten as out of hand as the issue one would expect from politicians. Electricity shortages are troublesome for President Biden, as he has staked his reputation on electrifying the country with alternative energy.

Neither the housing crisis nor the electricity challenge received much recognition in the presidential election. Biden has touched on the housing crisis, and former President Donald Trump has denigrated alternative energy. Both are complex issues that require urgent attention. And both defy simple, declarative political statements, which may be why they lie there, untouched but deadly.

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Housing is hurting in obvious ways, including homelessness, a drop in the birth rate and a freeze in labor mobility, once one of the United States’ great economic forces. Where there was work, workers went.

To a lesser extent during the current housing crisis, if Americans can’t find housing where there is work, they won’t move. The result: labor immobility of the European type.

Another consequence is that if the free movement of workers and their families ends, it contributes to the fragmentation of America: the New South becomes the Old South again, and the rigidity of elitism in the North hardens. The east coast and the west coast are starting to think differently: the east coast looks to Europe and the west coast looks to Asia. These developments are not good for politics. Intra-nationalism is a challenge for a country with a continental dimension.

For those lucky enough to have shelter, nothing is more important than electricity. We can survive without pizza delivery, mail delivery and telephone service, but we cannot survive without electricity.

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When it is extremely hot for months, as it was in some areas last summer, people die. More than 500 people died from heat-related causes around Phoenix, according to data from Arizona.

In Texas, 246 people froze to death during ice storm Uri in 2021, according to official counts. Just try to imagine those people, including children, freezing to death in their homes in America!

Homeless people die from exposure all the time.

A chorus of voices, led by the American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Association, have been sounding the electricity alarm for several years. However, the crisis continues to unfold because there is no quick fix for electricity generation and transmission, nor for housing.

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Demand is rising due to a national movement to electrify everything, especially transportation, and the growth of data centers. Rudy Garza, president of CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipal natural gas and electric utility, said eight data centers are planned and 20 more are waiting in the wings.

Utilities don’t say no. They have a history of demand planning, but the end of that may be in sight if demand for data centers fueled by artificial intelligence continues to grow.

While national electricity growth is about 2% annually, in fast-growing areas such as San Antonio and around Dallas it is 3%.

David Naylor, president of Rayburn Electric Cooperative, said his region is experiencing explosive demand growth of 3% or more per year, with no room left for data center growth even if it is coming.

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Technology will help solve the future of housing construction with better construction techniques. While national standards would boost new housing, the core of the problem remains local ordinances and resistance in the suburbs and other “desirable” areas.

Some of the same ‘not-where-we-live’ attitude frustrates utilities in moving renewable energy from the sunny and windy areas – mainly in the West – to where it is needed.

The not-where-we-live syndrome is hindering America’s future growth.

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The crisis has arrived in the field of housing construction. In the field of electricity it is coming.

Llewellyn King is the executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.