Republicans are somehow using the Texas snowstorm to slam the Green New DealFebruary 18, 2021
Five days into an ongoing statewide emergency, there are still nearly 4 million people in Texas who are without power as an unprecedented winter storm strikes the southern state. At least 23 people have already died, while thousands of others are suffering from the freezing temperatures. So, as one would expect from the state’s highest-ranking public official, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) went on national television to deliver a message of hope and resilience, uplifting the spirits of — sorry, wait. Upon further review, it appears he decided to shit on the Green New Deal instead.
In an appearance on Hannity, Abbott told viewers of the Fox News program that his state’s failure to successfully provide power to its citizens at their time of greatest need “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.” Abbott went on to argue that the devastating situation in his state, where millions of people are trapped in their homes without heat while temperatures drop to record lows not seen in more than a century, “just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states to make sure we’ll be able to heat our homes in the wintertime and cool our homes in the summertime.”
Abbott, unfortunately, wasn’t the only person to take this crisis and turn it nonsensically into an opportunity to extol the virtues of fossil fuels — as if burning them is not responsible for the very weather conditions that have left an entire state incapacitated. Opportunistic ghoul and sentient boat shoe Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, also got in on the action, telling his audience Tuesday night that the “Green New Deal came to Texas, [and] the power grid on the state became totally reliant on windmills.” To put the cherry on top of that double scoop of lies, Carlson went on to explain, “Then it got cold, and the windmills broke. Because that’s what happens in the Green New Deal.”
Then he warned: “The same energy policies that have wrecked Texas this week are going nationwide, they’re coming to your state.” Aside from the fact that the Green New Deal is literally not a law anywhere, it’s certainly not law in solid-red Texas, where wind turbine failures accounted for just 13% of outages. Laura Ingraham went ahead and made it a Fox News trifecta, blasting a chyron claiming that “green energy fails Texas” and attributing the power outages to the “radical climate vision” of Democrats.
Then there are the viral memes making their way across the conservative online sphere, like the one supposedly depicting a frozen windmill in Texas. (It’s actually a seven-year-old picture from Sweden.) Even The Wall Street Journal got in on the action, publishing an editorial that argued, “Herein is the paradox of the left’s climate agenda: The less we use fossil fuels, the more we need them.” The piece went on to claim that “the Biden administration’s plan to banish fossil fuels is a greater existential threat to Americans than climate change.” Sure.
All of this is so incredibly, brazenly, provably false. But it’s important to show how false it is because that’s certainly not going to happen on the Fox News airwaves. That network is living in an alternate reality where Texas, a state that has been under complete Republican control since 2003 and had a Republican governor and state Senate majority for a decade before that, has been overtaken by the liberal agenda and turned into a progressive hellscape where the Green New Deal is in full effect and actively killing people.
The truth, of course, is that Texas’s grid has nothing to do with the Green New Deal or federal regulations or the overreach of Democratic policies or anything remotely related to that. In fact, Texas has very specifically designed its grid to be free from the federal government — and that’s in large part why it is failing right now.
Texas operates its own, largely independent power grid, which is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and is responsible for more than 90% of the entire state’s electrical load. The state’s power companies intentionally do not sell power outside of Texas in order to avoid regulation — the result of the 1935 Federal Power Act that gave the federal government the authority to impose requirements on any power company that does interstate commerce.
That is certainly well and good for energy independence, and Texas has been all about embracing that mantra. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas “leads the nation in energy production” and also “uses more energy than any other state and accounts for almost one-seventh of the U.S. total consumption.” And while the state has been surprisingly willing to embrace clean energy to support that demand — former Republican Gov. Rick Perry built wind farms and turned the state into the top producer of wind energy — it is still largely reliant on natural gas. Wind accounts for just 10% of the state’s energy production, while natural gas and coal account for 72% and provide electricity to nearly every residence in the state.
While Texas politicians and national pundits with an agenda to push happily hone in on a few frozen wind turbines and pretend like they alone are solely responsible for leaving millions of people dangerously without power, even ERCOT has admitted that is not the case. In a statement provided to Bloomberg, the organization noted nuclear reactors, coal plants, and gas generators were all forced offline by the freezing temperatures in Texas. Data from ERCOT also shows that while some wind turbines have been taken down by the cold temperatures, the state is actually getting more electricity from wind than it typically would this time of year.
Not only that, but had the state followed federal regulations, it may have actually steeled itself against cold weather. Peter Fox-Penner, the founder of Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy, told NBC News, “Texas’s deregulatory philosophy has caused them to put much less stringent rules on generators and system operators to be prepared for cold weather than other systems, where extreme cold is more common.” After all, wind turbines operate just fine in Antarctica.
And of course, if Texas was part of a federal or interstate grid, it also would be able to acquire emergency power easier. As it is now, Texas can’t borrow or buy power from neighboring states or other grids that may have some to spare. That has left Texans in the dark for the foreseeable future; reports indicate that power could remain out for as long as a month after the extreme temperatures pass.
None of this appears to have deterred the politicians more interested in protecting fossil fuel companies than Texas residents. In a blog post published Wednesday on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) website, Perry went as far as to say that Texans were fine with the blackouts. “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” Perry wrote. “Try not to let whatever the crisis of the day is take your eye off of having a resilient grid that keeps America safe personally, economically, and strategically.”
Meanwhile, in the days leading up to the devastating winter storm, Abbott decided his time would be best spent floating a potential bill that would blacklist companies that choose not to do business with the fossil fuel industry from working with the state government. So yes, the Texas grid may be disconnected from the country — but its leadership is disconnected from reality.