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US conservatives falsely blame renewables for Texas storm outages

Partisan pundits have jumped on the energy outages experienced by millions of Texans during freezing weather raging through the United States, presenting a misleading argument that green technology was to blame.

“We should never build another wind turbine in Texas,” read a Facebook post on Tuesday by the state’s agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller. “The experiment failed big time.”

One of its presenters, Tucker Carlson, has supported Fox News, stating that renewables were to blame and Texas was "totally dependent on wind farms." The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial that "due to growing dependence on wind and solar, which can not provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the power grid is becoming less reliable."

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), which runs the state's power grid, said in a press conference on Tuesday, though several wind turbines froze, glitches in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy networks were responsible for almost twice as many outages as renewables.

Frozen instruments at gas, coal and even nuclear power stations were among the main problems, Ercot director Dan Woodfin said, according to Bloomberg.

A number of misleading claims about renewable energy, with wind turbines and the Green New Deal on the receiving end of much of the attention, spread on social media despite evidence to the contrary.

A viral photo of a helicopter de-icing a wind turbine was shared with claims that it showed that one of Texas' massive wind generators was applying a "chemical" solution.

The Green New Deal was labelled as the culprit by other social media users, including Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado. On Monday, Boebert tweeted that the proposal "has been proven unsustainable because renewables are clearly unreliable."

“It’s really natural gas and coal and nuclear that are providing the bulk of the electricity and that’s the bulk of the cause of the blackouts,” Jacobson told the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, Ercot said that of the 45,000 total state-wide offline megawatts of power, about 30,000 consisted of thermal sources, gas, coal and nuclear plants, and 16,000 came from renewable sources.

While Texas has been ramping up wind energy in recent years, according to Ercot data, the state still relies on wind power for only about 25 percent of its total electricity.

The agency confirmed that on Tuesday, after severe winter weather caused failures across multiple fuel types in recent days, wellhead freeze-offs and other problems curtailing the supply of natural gas systems were primarily responsible for new outages.

As Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered an inquiry into the grid failures, Ed Hirs said the issue was caused by a lack of investment in the deregulated power system of the state. Texas is alone in having a grid of its own. The other lower 48 states are linked to either the eastern or western interconnection grids and, if necessary, can draw on electricity supplies across state lines.

“The Ercot grid has collapsed in exactly the same manner as the old Soviet Union,” said Hirs. “It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.”

According to Emily Grubert, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, renewable energy is a popular scapegoat for new problems as more frequent extreme weather events strain infrastructure.

“It’s easy to focus on the thing that you can see changing as the source of why an outcome is changing,” Grubert told the AP. “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.”

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