Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Texas blackouts turn out to have been caused by gas plants, not wind turbines

The big freeze in Texas this week and the associated electricity blackouts, have led to some typical Republican false news. 

Several right-wing news outlets and the social media accounts of various Republican senators have been laying the blame for the blackouts squarely at the door of the state substantial wind energy sector. Because, for reasons I have never understood, Republicans (and conservatives in general) have a reflexive hatred of renewable energy, and a reflexive (and equally inexplicable) love of anything to do with oil, gas and coal.

Unfortunately for this narrative, although a few wind turbines did in fact ice up, the main underlying cause of Texas' blackouts was the state's gas power stations. Per the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which is the body responsible for overseeing energy production in the state and mixing and maintaining  its various sources: "It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system". In a deregulated, profit-driven power system, the gas power stations in particular were woefully unprepared for temperature extremes. That, and the fact that Texas' grid has no links with other states that might be able to help out in this kind of eventuality.

And those pictures of helicopters de-icing wind turbine blades that have been making the rounds of conservative social media? They turned out to be from northern Sweden in 2014, not Texas in 2021 as billed! Oops. These days, wind turbines seem to work perfectly well in winter in Sweden, Canada, even in Antarctica. 

But I wonder why right-wingers have this innate suspicion any fear of renewables? And, equally, why do they all seem to support moribund industries like oil and coal? Is it just that they feel it incumbent on conservatives to protect the past and old things in general, and to be dismissive and mistrustful of anything new (relatively speaking)? It's a mystery to me.

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