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The February Electrical Power Disaster in Texas: What Can Be Done to Avoid a Repeat

Policy Matters

Release Date: 03/10/2021

How to Understand the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan show art How to Understand the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Policy Matters

In mid-April, President Joe Biden announced that there would be a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the symbolic date of September 11, 2021—twenty years after the 9/11 terror attacks. Though troop numbers in Afghanistan have declined in recent years, a complete withdrawal of the type described by Biden would be a notable new development in U.S. military strategy. What is the background behind this decision, and how has it been received in D.C.? How should we contextualize Biden’s pronouncement within the broader history of American foreign policymaking? This episode’s...

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Is There a Migrant Crisis at the Border? show art Is There a Migrant Crisis at the Border?

Policy Matters

Growing numbers of undocumented migrants crossing the Mexico-U.S. border have raised a political firestorm in the United States, with some – particularly Republicans – calling the situation a “crisis.” Polling suggests that handling migration may be a weak spot in President Biden’s otherwise popular agenda. What are the numbers when it comes to undocumented crossings at our southern border? How is Biden’s approach different from Trump’s? Why is immigration reform so difficult in the United States? This episode has two guests. The first is , the Francoise and Edward Djerejian...

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Policy Matters

For the past six years, Yemen has been the center of a heated armed conflict between its Saudi and UAE-backed government and the rebel group “Ansar Allah,” more commonly known as the Houthis, leading to countless deaths and internally displaced persons. On top of the global challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, Yemenis are continuing to face dire health crises exacerbated by the war, causing what is widely regarded as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. In the wake of a recent ceasefire proposal by Saudi Arabia, what is the current state of the conflict in Yemen? What are the broader...

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What Should the Biden Administration Do about U.S. Drug Policy? show art What Should the Biden Administration Do about U.S. Drug Policy?

Policy Matters

“The times they are a’changing,” however slowly, when it comes to drug policy in the United States. Across the nation, states and municipalities are reassessing often punitive laws governing the use of illicit substances. What has been the human cost of the “war on drugs?” How has it impacted disadvantaged communities? What has been the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on drug use? And what steps should the new Biden Administration do to help foster a more humane and just approach to drug use? This episode has two guests. The first is , the Alfred C. Glassell, III, Fellow in Drug...

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The February Electrical Power Disaster in Texas: What Can Be Done to Avoid a Repeat show art The February Electrical Power Disaster in Texas: What Can Be Done to Avoid a Repeat

Policy Matters

In mid-February, a cold weather storm swept much of the United States. In Texas, the result was catastrophic, as skyrocketing electrical demand and plummeting supply led to massive, protracted blackouts across the state. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates most of the state’s electrical grid, has received an avalanche of criticism. What is ERCOT? What factors led to the mid-February blackouts? What can ERCOT and the state of Texas do to avoid similar disasters in the future? This episode has two guests. The first is , Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy...

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Books That Shaped My World show art Books That Shaped My World

Policy Matters

In May 2020, , the Mary Gibbs Jones Professor of Humanities and current chair of Rice University's History Department, became the first Rice professor to be honored with the Pulitzer Prize. His award-winning book, Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America, chronicles the life of Henrietta Wood, a freed slave who successfully sued one of her former owners. Since receiving the Pulitzer, Dr. McDaniel's book has only become more relevant in the midst of important conversations about racial justice in modern-day America. This podcast originally took place as an...

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What Can We Expect of the Biden Administration When It Comes to Immigration? show art What Can We Expect of the Biden Administration When It Comes to Immigration?

Policy Matters

President Joe Biden is committed to reversing his predecessor’s restrictive, often punitive approach to immigration. In general terms, how will his policies differ from those of President Donald Trump? What has Biden already done on the immigration front? What are likely new initiatives, particularly as they affect migration from Mexico and Central America? What are the advantages to a regional approach to migration from these countries? This episode’s guest is , the Francoise and Edward Djerejian Fellow for Mexico Studies and Director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at the...

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Covid-19 and the Transition to a Cashless Economy show art Covid-19 and the Transition to a Cashless Economy

Policy Matters

The Covid-19 pandemic in the United States has led to a sharp increase in cashless transactions. This is part of a broader trend toward electronic payments. What are the advantages of cashless transactions? How will their rise affect poorer households, particularly those which do not use banks and/or rely on alternative financial services? What security and privacy concerns does the shift toward cashless transactions raise? What are the prospects of a transition to an entirely cashless economy? This episode’s guest is , Fellow in Public Finance at Rice University’s Baker Institute for...

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Covid-19, Vaccines, and Prospects for a Return to Normalcy show art Covid-19, Vaccines, and Prospects for a Return to Normalcy

Policy Matters

We are at a dramatic moment in the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States. Even as infections and deaths reach horrifying highs, vaccines are becoming available.   What is Operation Warp Speed? How successful has it been in developing vaccines? What vaccines are currently available in the United States? What others are in the pipeline? How is the roll-out going? How long will it be before we return to normalcy? This episode’s guest is , Fellow in Science and Technology Policy here at the Baker Institute. She has written and spoken extensively on Covid-19 and vaccines for it.

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Federal Debt, Covid-19 and Wealth Inequality show art Federal Debt, Covid-19 and Wealth Inequality

Policy Matters

U.S. Federal debt, already at the highest level since World War II, has grown dramatically as Washington has expended huge sums to address plummeting output caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. How sustainable is this debt? What explains the long-term trend toward lower interest rates? What was the picture of wealth and income inequality in the United States on the eve of Covid-19? How will the pandemic affect it? This episode’s guest is , fellow in public finance here at the Baker Institute. His area of research involves the development of dynamic macroeconomic models for fiscal policy...

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In mid-February, a cold weather storm swept much of the United States. In Texas, the result was catastrophic, as skyrocketing electrical demand and plummeting supply led to massive, protracted blackouts across the state. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates most of the state’s electrical grid, has received an avalanche of criticism. What is ERCOT? What factors led to the mid-February blackouts? What can ERCOT and the state of Texas do to avoid similar disasters in the future?

This episode has two guests. The first is Dr. Jim Krane, Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies here at the Baker Institute. He has co-written an article for Forbes entitled “Winterization and the Texas Blackout: Fail to Prepare? Prepare to Fail.” Our second guest is Dr. Julie A. Cohn. She is a Nonresident Scholar at our Center for Energy Studies and authored a piece for the Washington Post called “Texas Seceded from the Nation’s Power Grid. Now It’s Paying the Price.” Both articles are available on the Baker Institute website.