You might expect that sweeping power outages caused by the kind of anomalous weather event made more likely by global heating would hammer home the need for climate-friendly policies – but some Republicans appear determined to take the opposite approach.
As millions of Texans continued to toil without energy on Tuesday in desperately cold conditions, the state’s governor Greg Abbott appeared on Fox News, where he used the crisis to attack Democrats’ proposed Green New Deal policies as “deadly”.
Blaming losses of wind and solar power – which he said account for 10 per cent of the state’s power grid – for having “thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis”, he claimed: “It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas, as well as other states, to make sure that we will be able to heat our homes in the wintertime and cool our homes in the summertime.”
But there are several glaring problems with this false narrative perpetuated by multiple prominent Republicans in response to the outages.
You’re the governor of a state where millions don’t have power, where people are literally dying of exposure, and y… https://t.co/OPT8ja3OBl
At the heart of this is the misleading claim that wind and solar energy are to blame for the outages.
While it is true that some wind turbines have frozen as a result of the record-breaking chill brought by Storm Uri, the state’s power grid operator Ercot said in a Tuesday press conference that failures at gas, coal and nuclear energy systems are responsible for twice as many failures as renewables. Furthermore, Ercot plans for wind output to decline in the winter and, in any case, increased solar output was making up for much of the drop in wind energy on Tuesday.
But this didn’t stop Republicans from claiming that the renewables project had “failed”, while misinformation – such as a debunked image purportedly showing a helicopter using fossil fuels to spraying de-icing chemicals on a frozen wind turbine, actually from Sweden in 2014 – proliferated across social media.
Pushing this helicopter-based propaganda, conspiracy-spouting House Republican Lauren Boebert also joined Abbott in attacking Democrat policies, this time referencing an oil and gas ban that does not exist, in addition to the Green New Deal – the latter a set of ideas that are yet to be enacted.
The claims led many to point out that it is Donald Trump and Greg Abbott who have presided over the years leading up to this week’s failures – not Democrats, who last governed Texas in 1995.
@laurenboebert Interior Secretary is not even confirmed yet. Sounds to me like the Trump energy plan was a disaster.
Others pointed accusatory fingers at deregulation in the early 2000s as having allowed Texas’s power grid to become isolated and run down, with energy analyst Ed Hirs telling the Houston Chronicle: “The Ercot grid has collapsed in exactly the same manner as the old Soviet Union ... It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.”
The crisis in Texas right now is not an accident.
This is the result of energy policy that puts corporate profits… https://t.co/hX1cKNbYZ5
But mostly, people just questioned the logic of blaming and attacking policies aimed at averting climate change during a crisis so clearly linked to it.
Meteorologists are blaming the historically cold weather – which has claimed at least 25 lives in related incidents – on the polar vortex.
While this weather pattern has previously remained largely confined to the Arctic, it is increasingly travelling further south both more frequently and for longer durations, which scientists believe is due to human-led climate breakdown.
Texas gets 70%+ of its electricity from coal, oil, and gas and operates its own ENTIRELY SEPARATE electric grid fro… https://t.co/GNSWkqLurQ
But despite the storm giving more of a glimpse at the future of extreme weather that beckons should we fail to curb fossil fuel emissions, experts say renewable energy is an increasingly popular scapegoat for problems that arise as a result of these weather events.
“It’s easy to focus on the thing that you can see changing as the source of why an outcome is changing,” Emily Grubert, an assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, told The Associated Press.
“The reality is that managing our systems is becoming more difficult. And that’s something that is easy to blame on the reaction to it, but it’s not actually the root cause.”