Tucker Carlson lies; surprise, surprise

Wind power is decidedly not the cause of Texas’ grid failure

Originally published Feb. 18, 2021 here.

Unfortunately, he is not the only one. Congresswoman Lauren Boebert promoted it in a retweet of Tucker’s show. Texas Governor Greg Abbot promoted the lie on Sean Hannity’s show (which he later weakly walked back). Former Governor (and Former Secretary of Energy) Rick Perry did similar on the Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s website. The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board did the same in their publication. Unsurprisingly, oil and gas industry money runs deep to those in Texas who are happy to jump on board with the unfounded criticisms of wind.

The Lie

The lie is simple, which makes it effective: renewables are unreliable, and could not provide power when Texans needed it, letting hundreds of thousands, even millions, lose energy during dangerously cold temperatures. More renewables spell disaster for our country. The Green New Deal, Biden’s climate plans, any step into the direction of anything like climate action is equivalent to Democratic destruction of American way of life. “The Biden Administration’s plan to banish fossil fuels is a greater existential threat to Americans than climate change” (courtesy of the WSJ, which, I might add, is not only wrong in that it fails to realize the true magnitude of suffering climate change can and will cause, but also wrong in that Biden has never shown any inclination of “banning fossil fuels” [reduce != ban]).

The Truth

Unfortunately, none of these politicians or pundits or publications care to look at the facts, cold as they may be to their ideological biases:

On Monday, frozen instruments and a limited gas supply forced 30,000 MW/h of power offline. This was half of what ERCOT [Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages Texas’ power grid] believed they would need. According to the agency, wind turbines account for less than 13% of the total generation that was lost. The majority of which was coal and gas. [emphasis mine]

So yes, there are some issues with renewable energies during extreme weather events, but those issues are only a sliver of a larger problem that has left hundreds of thousand [sic] in the dark.

That’s it. The narrative crumbles. This was not a failure of renewable energy; this was a failure of Texan energy, to some degree wind, but to a major degree the ever-loved coal and gas. This failure is a major issue, obviously, and Texan wind power is not left out of that indictment. But the failure’s inclusion of the “more reliable” methane and coal show that the large chunk of the problem had to do with sector wide preparation and contingencies, which is made worse by such self-flagellatingly¹ tendencies as having a separate power grid to the rest of the country. Much of this Texas was warned about in the past, but the environment of valuing recommendation over enforceable regulation (and not seeing the potential to profit from such costly expenditures as cold-proofing, or “winterizing,” through better insulation and wind barriers), and just plain demonization of the concept of regulation, seems to have contributed to the lack of preparedness.

The Tuck

But with Tucker in the title, I want to hone in on some of what he said to highlight how ridiculous it is:

The windmills froze, so the power grid failed.

Note the use of “windmills” (which will be a recurring theme), a subtle way to downplay the seriousness and legitimacy of the energy source (which will also continue). Unless Tucker thought Texas was solely dependent on wind energy, or that wind energy is for some unknown reason the crux of the entire grid, this is so reductive and blatantly wrong that it betrays an energy understanding on the level of a middle schooler. (If he wanted to argue that reduced wind power caused additional strain on an already strained grid, which he is not doing, he could; but, similar could be said in the reverse direction, as well)

Running out of energy in Texas is like starving to death at the grocery store: You can only do it on purpose, and Texas did.

As we saw above, no, you can only do it if you don’t find it reasonable to prepare for worst case (or even just bad case) scenarios, like strong cold snaps (which have come before). Texas could have taken stronger efforts to enforce weatherization changes in the power grid as a whole, so there would be less failures across the board, from wind to fossil fuels. All energy sources could have benefitted from more preparation. But, seeing government regulation as a boogeyman, they, tragically for Texans suffering, did not.

In light of this, here is a collection of ways to help out those hurting in Texas.

(Also, a quick aside, I simply do not understand the rationale of those who genuinely think that government regulation is a harmful thing when it comes to energy and the environment. Environmental pollution is literally the textbook example of market failure. And even die-hard market fundamentalists should recognize that market failures are the time when government is supposed to intervene. Similarly, energy is often too necessary/widespread/infrastructure-heavy to allow for natural market tendencies [you can’t have 30 different power grids in a single city], so the government has some role to play there as well)

Fifteen years ago, there were virtually no wind farms in Texas. Last year, roughly a quarter of all electricity generated in the state came from wind. Local politicians were pleased by this. They bragged about it like there was something virtuous about destroying the landscape and degrading the power grid.

“Destroying the landscape and degrading the power grid.” There might be some weird moral argument in the “degrading” of a power grid, but, ignoring that, I can only see, maybe, this as a line of attack about how the power grid is simply less effective now? Well, we have seen from the above rate of failure of wind, that it is not bringing the power grid down; it’s a full sinking ship on that accord. And in terms of destruction of the natural world, there is simply no argument to be had.

Fossil fuels are the literal destruction of the parts of the natural world through burning, and they have a gargantuan sum of other, “less direct” harms. Smog and air pollution deaths, oil spills, destruction of animal habitat, and MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL² (this is one of the links you should definitely click on).

Not to mention all the destruction caused by global warming and carbon emissions: ocean acidification, coral bleaching, drought intensification, glacier melting (if we want to talk about destruction of the landscape, let’s talk about what the world will look like when the Arctic glaciers are gone). Or even, simply, black lung? I guess a human isn’t part of your typical landscape, but the destruction fossil fuel production has brought on people, Americans even!, is gutturally real.

So it was all working great until the day it got cold outside. The windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died.

Yeah, until it got cold and Texas realized that all of the recommendations that should have been regulations were not implemented; proper steps were not taken to be ready for when “it got cold outside,” for wind or fossil fuels.

Here, we see Tucker’s continued belittling of wind power, “silly fashion accessories” (and another “windmill”). Now, this may be justified if Tucker really thinks wind power is the reason that people died in Texas. Unfortunately for him, it is not, as we have seen.

It is also not justified because “silly fashion accessories” implies little to no practical use. Considering people in Texas are still getting power from wind turbines, that seems like a disingenuous statement. Or what about when places like Denmark get over 50% of their electricity from wind, and are on track to be able to cover all of their electricity needs with wind? Are these country-sustaining turbines still silly fashion?

And before anyone says it, yes, it’s obviously easier for a small and coastal country to generate so much of its power from (offshore) wind (though, it has the same requirement as for any large country, political will). America does not necessarily have to follow the same path, but the point still stands that wind is able to provide immense amounts of power. Denmark’s newest wind project is expected to be able to power 10 million households at max capacity. And besides, America has plenty of coast (and plenty of land) to utilize for renewables (in ways that need not blow up mountains).

Green energy inevitably means blackouts. Someday that may change as technology progresses, but as of right now and given the current state of technology, green energy means a less reliable power grid. It means failures like the ones we’re seeing now in Texas. That’s not a talking point, that is true. It’s science. So of course, they’re denying it.

It’s science, being denied. This is funny coming from someone who has said about the marriage of the President and the First Lady, “Their love is as real as climate change!” While, of course, an attack on the grounds that their “romantic gestures” are “part of a slick PR campaign devised by cynical consultants” is, just, lol, the irony of a pundit claiming that his political opponents are science-denying, while he himself disagrees with the overwhelming scientific consensus (which has been reported on in meta-studies since at least 2004) on climate change is acrid.

To risk stating my point too heavy-handedly, there is no excuse for any in the business of news and factual reporting (which technically Tucker isn’t in) to fail to recognize the scientific reality of climate change. I can charitably understand not being as emphatic or concerned about it as others, but we are eons past the point where any form of blanket rejection can be met in good faith. For these reasons, Tucker Carlson, I dub thee, charlatan.

How would you like a massive power plant in your backyard humming and buzzing and chopping up birds?

Above source, and climate change will harm birds even more.

…it doesn’t matter because green energy is the ultimate inside game. A tiny number of people profit from it due to government subsidies and regulated prices.

Subsidies for renewable energies are larger now; but fossil fuels have been able to benefit from subsidies for much longer. Let’s check the historical record to see how things line up:

Now let’s see when all the fossil fuels are aggregated:

Hmm, kind of looks like fossil fuels have been subsidized over 400% more than renewables. We believe in giving everyone a fair shot, no? Then renewables deserve at least as many subsidies as fossil fuels (arguably more because fossil fuel technology has had more time to develop because of the earlier subsidies [and arguably more still because they offer a better source of energy seeing how it does not further catastrophic climate change]).

And lastly:

Not a single major American city is prettier or more functional than it was in 1950.

To which I will simply offer a picture of LA in the 50’s as rebuttal:

Fin

I was going to delve into a bit of how the WSJ piece is ideologically-infected as well (and about how Tucker brought on known scientist-harasser and climate denier Marc Morano), but I think this is well enough, for now.

“A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has had the time to put on its boots.” Hopefully, these kinds of articles can give the truth a bit more of a fighting chance. Some of the articles I’ve sourced from that are combatting said lie are listed below.

1. This is a terror to pronounce, but still worth having literarily, imo

2. Once again, this is one of the links you should definitely click on

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Thanks for reading! And if you know anyone who might like or appreciate this piece, feel free to share it with them. I think, for now, the only way this newsletter grows is through reader-sharing.

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Receive these pieces the day they release by signing up here.

Oh, I also turned this into a video over on my YouTube channel:

https://youtu.be/XAx_5KJ-jl8

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https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-17/texas-was-warned-a-decade-ago-its-grid-was-unprepared-for-cold

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/texas-frozen-wind-turbines-john-cornyn-b1803193.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/joewalsh/2021/02/16/wind-power-isnt-to-blame-for-texas-electricity-crisis/?sh=580b569d21b3

https://www.kxan.com/news/texas/are-frozen-wind-turbines-to-blame-for-texas-power-outages/

https://www.sacurrent.com/the-daily/archives/2021/02/17/texas-gov-greg-abbott-lies-on-fox-news-about-cause-of-the-states-power-outages

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/17/texas-power-grid-failures/

Willie Nelson — America the Beautiful?

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2030 by Matt Lundy

2030 by Matt Lundy

This is a secondary hosting of 2030.substack.com written by me, Matt Lundy, a science/climate communicator looking for work. Contact: madt.lundy@gmail.com