The pandemic has driven home a lesson that’s been true for a long time about Republican politicians: They don’t actually care about the welfare of their constituents so long as they’re able to trick enough people into people into believing the other side is responsible for everything that’s wrong. Nearly 500,000 people have died and millions more have had their lives upturned largely because of the GOP’s negligence, but they’ll have you believe the real enemies are the liberals impinging on your freedom by asking you to wear a mask.
A similar routine is playing out in response to the brutal ice storm that swept through Texas earlier this week, leaving millions without power due to an energy grid that was totally unprepared to shoulder the stress of a winterized natural disaster. On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott went on Fox News to point the finger at renewable energy. “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” he said before claiming the “shutdown” of solar and wind energy “thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power.”
Texas Gov. Abbott blames solar and wind for the blackouts in his state and says "this shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America" pic.twitter.com/YfVwa3YRZQ
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 17, 2021
Abbott isn’t alone. Republicans looking to score political points from across the spectrum have been blaming green energy for the disaster, including those in Texas. “This is what happens when you force the grid to rely in part on wind as a power source,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “When weather conditions get bad as they did this week, intermittent renewable energy like wind isn’t there when you need it.”
To drive the point home, many are sharing a viral image of a helicopter de-icing a frozen windmill. “You know how you unfreeze frozen windmills? By sending up a helicopter that shoots out chemicals onto the blades,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted, ostensibly in response to the viral image. “You need fuel for the helicopter. Keep that in mind when thinking how ‘green’ windmills are.”
The only problem is that the image was not taken in Texas earlier this week. It was taken in Sweden in 2014.
Right-wing media has been right there with their counterparts in Congress in spreading disinformation. The Wall Street Journal editorial board on Monday published an op-ed titled “A Deep Green Freeze,” and Tucker Carlson echoed the argument Abbott made on Hannity by claiming that Texas is “totally reliant on windmills.” The fact that wind power only accounts for seven percent of the state’s expected winter energy capacity is beside the point. The bottom line here is that liberals and the Green New Deal are to blame, and what Texas really needs is even more of that sweet, sweet fossil fuel.
But what Abbott, his fellow Republicans, and conservative media conveniently fail to mention is that the Green New Deal is only an idea. The nation, and especially Texas, are powered by fossil fuels, overwhelmingly so, and it’s under this system that Texas was cast into the Dark Ages after a few days of uncharacteristically cold temperatures. The real culprit here is not frozen wind turbines; it’s that huge percentage of Texas’ natural gas-powered thermal plants have frozen and gone offline.
One of the reasons why all of these plants are offline is because the Texas power grid is largely deregulated and privatized. As the Texas Tribune laid out in 2011, the state isolated its power grid from that of the rest of the nation because it didn’t want it to be subject to federal regulation. This led to cost cutting, and over the years the state’s energy infrastructure fell into disrepair. “The [Electric Reliability Council of Texas] grid has collapsed in exactly the same manner as the old Soviet Union,” Ed Hirs, an energy fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Houston, told the Houston Chronicle. “It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.”
This is all to say that fossil fuels and conservative leadership are very much to blame for the devastation that has swept across the state this week, and if anything the widespread blackouts prove we need to ramp up renewable energy, which is generally more resilient to inclement weather. Renewable energy doesn’t exacerbate the climate crisis, either, which has helped spur all of these unpredictable weather events, which are only going to get worse. The future of our country hangs in the balance. Republicans either don’t understand this, or they do and they don’t care because — again — they know they’ll be able to spin enough blame onto Democrats to get themselves reelected.
In case you’re wondering, Greg Abbott is already planning to run for third term in 2022. He’s probably going to win.