Bill McKibben: blaming the wind for the Texas disaster is ridiculous

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/blaming-the-wind-for-the-mess-in-texas-is-ridiculous?

Blaming the Wind for the Mess in Texas Is Painfully Absurd

By Bill McKibbenFebruary 18, 2021

Electric service trucks line up after a snow storm
Failures in renewable-energy generation accounted for only a small percentage of the state’s recent power outages.Photograph by Ron Jenkins / Getty

Sometimes, all you need is a map. In the wake of this week’s power failures in Texas, which have left millions without heat in subfreezing conditions, right-wing politicians and news networks decided that the emergency was down to “frozen wind turbines,” a phrase that has now been repeated ad infinitum on all the various ganglia that make up the conservative “information” network. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which has managed to be wrong about energy and climate for more than four decades, put it like this: “Gas and power prices have spiked across the central U.S. while Texas regulators ordered rolling blackouts Monday as an Arctic blast has frozen wind turbines.” Governor Greg Abbott took time out from failing to deal with the emergency that had imperilled many in his state to tell Fox News that “this shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.” Not to be outdone, on Tuesday afternoon, Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Republican who represents Texas’s second congressional district, including parts of Houston, tweeted that “this is what happens when you force the grid to rely in part on wind as a power source.” The Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, who is “known for his right-wing Facebook posts that have, in the past, spread misinformation and amplified conspiracy theories,” the Texas Tribune reported, “also posted an unvarnished view of wind energy on Facebook: ‘We should never build another wind turbine in Texas.’ ”

The usual responsible voices eventually responded with a large amount of data showing that Abbott, Fox, and the rest were completely wrong. Failures in renewable-energy generation accounted for a small percentage of the outages. The biggest problems were in “thermal”—which is to say fossil-fuel—generating plants and systems; simply put, natural-gas pipelines froze in the cold, as even Governor Abbott admitted. His own energy regulators at the ill-named Electric Reliability Council of Texas explained that “it appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural-gas system.” Or, as Michael Webber, an energy-resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin, put it, “gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now.” (A nuclear power plant also went down, likely as a result of freezing temperatures shutting down cooling systems or sensors.)

Bill McKibben is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and a contributing writer to The New Yorker. He writes The Climate Crisis, The New Yorker’s newsletter on the environment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.