Texas has had some pretty serious power problems in the last few days. As record winter storms and cold swept into the state, power demand went way up as people needed more power for their heaters. Unfortunately, the power needs spiked just as every type of power plant started experiencing problems. With a major shortfall, officials had to order rolling blackouts, leaving millions without power when they needed it the most.
My grandmother and several other relatives around Texas were caught in this, and were saved from freezing by fireplaces.
Texas Gov. Abbott blames solar and wind for the blackouts in his state and says “this shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America” pic.twitter.com/YfVwa3YRZQ
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 17, 2021
While people were suffering and even dying in Texas, Governor Abbott was on Fox News talking to Sean Hannity about the situation. He said the Green New Deal would be a “deadly deal” for the United States, and went on to blame renewables for the shortfall.
There’s just one problem: renewables aren’t to blame for what happened in Texas.
The Obvious Reasons He’s Wrong
I’ll start with the obvious. There are wind turbines and solar panels in use all over North America, including Canada and Alaska, where this sort of weather not only happens more often, but is common. We don’t see stories of Canadians freezing in their homes every week in the winter, so they must be doing something different, and it’s not that they’re burning more fossil fuels than Texas.
As I pointed out in another article, wind turbines in use up north are built differently than the ones in Texas. With heaters, special anti-ice coatings, and other measures in place, Canada’s wind turbines are working in temperatures far colder than Texas ever experiences. Texas power companies saw that this storm is basically a 50 or 100-year event, and it wasn’t worth it to spend extra money on winterizing the turbines for a winter they’d only see a couple of times in their design life.
Just like you’d never buy snow tires in Phoenix or air conditioning in places that don’t get hot in the summer, the power utilities know customers wouldn’t pay an extra few bucks a month for winterization. They’d rather spend that money on something else.
If Texas had planned better for this and built its renewables to withstand the cold, it wouldn’t be having this problem.
Renewables Were Only A Fraction Of The Problem
The electric utility regulator in Texas admitted this much in a statement: “Extreme weather conditions caused many generating units – across fuel types – to trip offline and become unavailable.”
As the governor pointed out, renewables are only about 10% of electric generation on Texas’ power grid.
In an article about this, TechCrunch pointed out all of the statistics from a variety of sources. It turns out that frozen wind turbines (which was avoidable, as pointed out above) only accounted for a small fraction of the state’s shortfall. Wind accounted for only about 4 gigawatts of energy offline while thermal power plants, mostly natural gas, were offline because they couldn’t get any fuel. So much natural gas was needed for heating, that it just wasn’t available for power plants to have pumped through the pipe to them.
While wind accounted for 4 gigawatts of the shortage, natural gas plants accounted for most of the rest, about 26 gigawatts.
A variety of other media sources say that every type of power plant, including coal, natural gas, and nuclear experienced issues during the storm. Cold weather wreaked havoc on control systems, fuel supplies, and cooling systems for these plants because, like the turbines, they weren’t built for that kind of cold.
Ultimately, it’s clear that renewables aren’t the problem. Texas power companies simply didn’t plan to work in this kind of weather, which they didn’t think was all that likely to happen in their lifetimes.
Did Greg Abbott Know This?
Of course the governor knew all this. Here’s a tweet he made:
Here is the information from ERCOT: pic.twitter.com/Mud1cxhklP
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) February 15, 2021
He shared the exact statement I quoted earlier, explaining that power sources of all fuel types were having issues that led to the shortfall.
Here’s another one:
The Texas power grid has not been compromised.
The ability of some companies that generate the power has been frozen.
This includes the natural gas & coal generators.
They are working to get generation back on line.
ERCOT & PUC are prioritizing residential consumers. https://t.co/wDiDXN17Fu
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) February 15, 2021
He says that he gathered a lot of information about the problem, and he admits that the issue affected coal and natural gas plants.
So, he obviously knew that the problem wasn’t renewables. And, he knew all this BEFORE going on Fox and blaming renewables for the problem.
Why Is He Lying About This?
Foremost, he has personal reasons to deflect blame for this.
First, a disaster is bad for him, and he wants to deflect blame. He knows that his base is more likely to believe that green technology is to blame for the state’s problems, facts be damned. It’s easier to blame someone else for what’s happening than to take personal responsibility when an organization you lead fails. Sure, it’s bad to lie in the long run, but Abbott isn’t going to be around in the long run.
It’s easier to lie, but not better. He might think lying will save his ass in the short run, but people hate politicians who get caught lying. Unless they agree with the lie. This was apparently a risk he was willing to take.
The risk is a lot more palatable when there are rewards. Fossil fuel companies donated big to liars like Abbott, Cruz, and and Crenshaw. A quick way to ensure they’ll be back next election to donate some more is to carry water for them during situations like this. Abbott just secured a lot of funding for future ambitions.
The second problem is the audience. They are perpetually stuck in the past.
Sometimes, that’s a good thing. The focus on tradition leads to passion for constitutional rights, limits on government power, and protecting the little guy from being eaten alive by the majority.
Other times, being stuck in the past is a bad thing. Wind and solar used to be expensive and unreliable, but that just isn’t the case anymore. Once many conservatives learn something, they aren’t open to finding out that new information has since been found and that they were wrong about it for all that time. They take it personally.
Once a few conservative influencers told the audience that clean technologies were to blame, he had to follow along or get blasted by his base, lose campaign money, and take some blame for it.