(This piece has been updated.)
This morning there are more than 3.7 million people throughout the country without power – and some without water – and desperately trying to stay warm while those same swaths of the country experience the coldest temperatures they’ve had in decades. At least 21 people have died because of the storm, which has put 75 percent of the continental United States under snow cover. In many southern states the storm has left so much ice on the roads that those without power can’t safely travel to another place that might have power. And, another storm is supposed to hit Wednesday, continuing the burden on an overstressed and iced-over power grid.
The situation is so dire that some residents who have power or a little bit of charge left on their cell phone are hitting Twitter with desperate pleas for officials or even industry titans like Elon Musk to step in and save lives.
Enter Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bartender), with an extremely empathetic take on the situation.
The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you *don’t* pursue a Green New Deal.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 17, 2021
She followed up:
Weak on sweeping next-gen public infrastructure investments, little focus on equity so communities are left behind, climate deniers in leadership so they don’t long prep for disaster.
We need to help people *now.* Long-term we must realize these are the consequences of inaction.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 17, 2021
Look, we know you hate Ted Cruz and pretty much everything associated with Texas, AOC. But have you watched the coverage about the people who’ve died trying to keep warm? They’re single moms who tried to keep themselves and their child(ren) warm in a running car, and they all died together of carbon monoxide poisoning. From the news stories I’ve seen, they’re not women enjoying white privilege. They’re the people you allegedly want to help. But you don’t want to give them a safe space to express their fear and tell their truth, much less do anything that would actually help.
Instead, you want to tsk-tsk the “climate deniers” and claim it’s their fault that there’s “inequity” in the suffering right now, and tweet that we need to help people, asterisk, now, asterisk. What does that even mean? What does that look like? Never mind.
But, anyway, as usual, she’s wrong. The infrastructure failures aren’t what happens when you *don’t* pursue a Green New Deal. Texas pursued solar and wind energy, but – and whose fault this is we don’t know – those turbines weren’t equipped with cold weather protection like weather resistant coating on the blades, de-icing drones, and upgrades in heating packages. Maybe someone like this bonehead was making the call and cheaping out, believing that in Texas they’d never need cold weather protection:
Ercot’s head of system operations, Dan Woodfin, said this week’s ongoing “weather event is really unprecedented.” He added that Texas hasn’t seen this combination of Arctic temperatures and wind chills since the 1940s.
No, Mr. Woodfin, “unprecedented” means there is no precedent. If Texas saw this combination of Arctic temperatures and wind chills in the 1940s, it’s not unprecedented. When it comes to vital resources like power, those making the crucial decisions need to plan for all eventualities, not just the ones they think are likely.
While images of frozen wind turbines grab everyone’s attention, a major cause of the problem in Texas is insufficient oil and gas production. Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, noted that while many are focusing on the failure of solar and wind energy generation during the storm, Texas’ oil and gas production is 21 gigawatts below what is needed during this cold snap.
6) that said, the main failure was its oil and gas production. Texas is producing 21 gigawatts below what is needed… wind is very minor. Most from other reasons. Texas is in a huge cluster pic.twitter.com/6G6KvXQtv3
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) February 16, 2021
It turns out that frigid temperatures affect that infrastructure (as it’s currently constituted), too. According to the Texas Tribune:
Officials for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which manages most of Texas’ grid, said that the primarily cause of the outages on Tuesday appeared to be the state’s natural gas providers. Many are not designed to withstand such low temperatures on equipment or during production.
By some estimates, nearly half of the state’s natural gas production has screeched to a halt due to the extremely low temperatures, while freezing components at natural gas-fired power plants have forced some operators to shut down.
Obviously, those providers should have equipment able to withstand 100-year or 1000-year weather events, but in a Green New Deal environment that will never happen. Those are eeeevilll sources of power, so regulatory agencies are under pressure to deny companies the ability to modernize equipment – because it’s much easier to do away with an eeeevilll source of power if the powers that be can make it seem unreliable and outdated. But at the same time the powers that be – for whatever reason – fail to properly invest in the energy sources they believe are the energy sources of the future.
What about coal and nuclear, you ask? As the Wall Street Journal opines:
Coal and nuclear are the most reliable sources of power. But competition from heavily subsidized wind power and inexpensive natural gas, combined with stricter emissions regulation, has caused coal’s share of Texas’s electricity to plunge by more than half in a decade to 18%.
Oh. The regulators are happy, those whose imperfect industries are subsidized are happy, but 3.7 million people would be really happy to have some coal- or nuclear-fired power plants online right about now, and 20 people would be alive to enjoy it.
Which brings me to another point. In a Green New Deal world, people who generate solar or wind energy at their home don’t necessarily get to keep that energy/power. For example, when there are rolling blackouts in California or blackouts for wildfire prevention, my friends who have solar panels don’t get to just keep their power. Because they’re tied in to the grid, they lose power too. (Who knows what happens to whatever power is generated during the time they don’t have power – it likely just goes back to Southern California Edison for free.)
And, Green New Deal advocates want everyone to have an electric heat pump instead of using natural gas or propane to heat their homes, which is a really bad idea since heat pumps use much more electricity than a gas furnace – leading to grid strain in extreme weather. If everyone’s tied into the electrical grid for heat, they have no way to ensure that their family will be warm and safe in an emergency like this. I lived in central North Carolina for nearly 20 years and the ice storms were legendary. What gave me peace of mind was knowing we always had the ability to stay warm. We had a heat pump, but we also had natural gas logs in the fireplace – with a hella powerful electric blower – hooked up to a 500-gallon propane tank. Most of the winter we used that to heat the house because it was so much less expensive. In an ice storm situation obviously we lost the use of the blower, but we were still able to huddle the family in the living room and use the generator to power the microwave and the TV. (With three sons, we had to do that or we’d lose our minds!) I cannot imagine being a mom in an iced-over area of Texas right now, wondering how I would keep my babies warm. People like AOC have rendered it impossible for those moms to keep their babies – or their grandmothers – warm, and, her tweet shows that she’s still not satisfied with their suffering.
Please tell us, AOC, when do people come first?
(UPDATE: As many of our awesome readers have pointed out, there are varying types of residential solar panels. Most do not allow the owner to use their own energy in the event of a power outage or grid failure. In California, solar battery storage units like Tesla Powerwalls are a growing trend for just that reason. Tesla Powerwalls can be used off-grid. Also, while it’s true that gas furnaces still require electricity to function, since the amount of electricity they require in frigid temperatures is significantly less than the amount required to operate heat pumps; therefore, the power grid is far less likely to buckle under the demand .)