You have to feel bad for Texas right now. A nasty winter storm has wreaked havoc on their energy grid leaving millions without power. It seems like the only consistent source of heat right now, is the hot air coming out of right-wing commentators on Fox News.
Texas is an interesting state. It has deregulated its electricity grid more than anywhere else in North America. It’s one of the few places where new wind farms compete with new coal-fired power plants to deliver the cheapest possible electricity. But that deregulation has come with a cost.
Regulation might be a dirty word to Republicans, but without it few power producers would spend the extra money necessary to add redundancy or handle cold weather. Winterization isn’t hard. Natural gas plants and wind turbines operate in much colder temperatures here in Canada. But Texas power producers weren’t required to winterize and so they didn’t. When the storm hit, it caused natural gas plants, coal plants, wind turbines, and even nuclear power plants to shut down as demand for electricity spiked.
This didn’t have to happen. The same winter weather that hit Texas hit most of the United States but rolling blackouts were only a problem in Texas. That’s because the Texas power grid isn’t connected to any of its neighbours. Normally when demand for electricity spikes, you can rely on importing power from neighbouring jurisdictions. By design, Texas has avoided grid hookups too its neighbouring states because federal regulations apply to interstate transmission of electricity (ironically regulations that would have likely prevented the outages). If I was Texan, I would be revisiting that stance, but as the former governor of Texas said, “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.”
Ok. So Texas couldn’t handle a freak snowstorm. Is it actually worth winterizing in Texas? It’s a southern state and doesn’t normally get snowstorms. Well, except that last big winter storm 10 years ago that prompted calls to improve things. Or the polar vortex 2 years ago that just missed Texas. As climate change progresses we can expect more extreme weather events, so it makes sense to have a grid that can handle it.
Which brings us back to the blowhards at Fox News. How are they handling this epic failure of deregulation in the face of climate change? They’re blaming it on the Green New Deal (which doesn’t exist yet), AOC (who raised $4 million for Texas relief while Ted Cruz ran off to Mexico on vacation), and wind turbines, while completely ignoring deregulation and climate change.
The biggest problem with Fox News is that it features its crazy opinion pieces more prominently than the actual news articles. And even though the news articles aren’t riddled with lies, they conveniently leave out facts. Fox News has not reported about the natural gas plants failing in the cold weather and won’t mention climate change at all. Here’s a quote from a Fox News article about the Texas storm by Bradford Betz with contributions from the Associated Press:
Scientists say the polar vortex, a weather pattern that usually keeps to the Arctic, is increasingly spilling into lower latitudes and sticking around longer.Fox News – 2020-02-18
Which is true, but it’s missing a direct reference to climate change. Fox News took the original sentence from the Associated Press article and then edited it because apparently “climate change” is banned in FoxNewspeak. Here is the original sentence for comparison (emphasis mine):
Scientists say the polar vortex, a weather pattern that usually keeps to the Arctic, is increasingly spilling into lower latitudes and sticking around longer, and global warming caused by humans is partly responsible.AP News – 2020-02-17
I hope most Americans will see through the misinformation being thrown at them by Fox News, but that might be too much to ask. There are too many people who live in an alternate reality.
Or what this guy said: