How could this happen in Texas, the nation’s energy powerhouse?

Quote of the week

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is. – Winston Churchill

At the absolute core of our movement is our unqualified love of America.

On Feb. 25, 1836, Samuel Colt patented his famous revolver. The Congress of Texas purchased the 1839 model for its Navy, while the Texas Rangers popularized the weapon. “There are probably in Texas about as many [Colt] revolvers as male adults, and I doubt if there are one hundred in the state of any other make.” – Frederick Olmsted

Buddy’s Soap Box

A patriotic Texas howdy from Buddy!

Not a lot from me this week although God knows there is plenty to talk about as liberals or progressives or whatever they style themselves as, with Biden as their “leader,” advance bizarre and destructive policies, everything from flooding our border with illegals to passing laws that put boys in girls’ sports and bathrooms.

I really don’t think there is any way, really, for traditionalist, conservative Americans to compromise or come together with people whose values and agenda are so alien and destructive. How do you compromise with people who celebrate abortion? How do you join hands with people who call you a racist, a xenophobe, a homophobe, a deplorable, someone who “clings to their guns and religion?” Better by far to beat them than join them.

Our task is to better assert our majority and continue to build it until, by sheer numbers, we set the nation’s agenda via the ballot box and who we elect, and they do not.

Next week we’ll publish the full list of President Donald Trump’s accomplishments while serving as president of these United States.  I can’t think of anything that will unhinge the left more. Hopefully, however, they’ll share their insights, describing those things Trump did wrong and, as a bonus, those things Biden has thus far accomplished and, if we are really lucky, what they expect him and his team to accomplish on the nation’s behalf over the next four years.

Below are two columns, both on the recent Texas weather disaster that should have been foreseen, and in fact was foreseen by some, but nonetheless happened. A big part of the problem was the politically elite drive, largely successful, to move the state’s power from reliable coal plants to renewable wind, which had a 95% failure rate just when it was most needed. Fortunately, Texas still had enough coal plants to keep the grid from utterly failing. But had our former mayor here in Arlington, and others liberal mayors, had their way, we would have had no coal plants going into the deep freeze. Fortunately for Texans who prefer not to live in a hole in the side of a hill and eat their meat raw (if they can get it at all), the petition to shut down all coal-fired plants and modern-day life in Texas didn’t go anywhere.

See y’all next week!


Columns worth reading

Each week under this heading, I’ll include full columns or intros to columns you can read in full elsewhere on the internet. Each of these columns pretty much express my views, else I’d not be sharing them with you.

The following two pieces provide good insight into what happened in Texas and why. Green energy, no matter how heavily subsidized, can’t cut it without reliable backup. That reliable backup has been demonized for more than two decades now and the chickens finally came home to roost.

Texas’s Blackouts Are the Result of Unreliable ‘Green’ Energy

The Honorable Jason Isaac  @ISAACforTexas

February 19, 2021 • This commentary was originally published in The Federalist on February 18, 2021

As Texans reel from ongoing blackouts at the worst possible time, during a nationwide cold snap that has sent temperatures plummeting to single digits, the news has left people in other states wondering: How could this happen in Texas, the nation’s energy powerhouse?

But policy experts have seen this moment coming for years. The only surprise is that the house of cards collapsed in the dead of winter, not the toasty Texas summers that usually shatter peak electricity demand records.

The blackouts, which have left as many as 4 million Texans trapped in the cold, show the numerous chilling consequences of putting too many eggs in the renewable basket.

Fossil Fuels Aren’t to Blame

There are misleading reports asserting the blackouts were caused by large numbers of natural gas and coal plants failing or freezing. Here’s what really happened: the vast majority of our fossil fuel power plants continued running smoothly, just as they do in far colder climates across the world. Power plant infrastructure is designed for cold weather and rarely freezes, unlike wind turbines that must be specially outfitted to handle extreme cold.

It appears that ERCOT, Texas’s grid operator, was caught off guard by how soon demand began to exceed supply. Failure to institute a managed rolling blackout before the grid frequency fell to dangerously low levels meant some plants had to shut off to protect their equipment. This is likely why so many power plants went offline, not because they had failed to maintain operations in the cold weather.

Yet these operational errors overshadow the decades of policy blunders that made these blackouts inevitable. Thanks to market-distorting policies that favor and subsidize wind and solar energy, Texas has added more than 20,000 megawatts (MW) of those intermittent resources since 2015 while barely adding any natural gas and retiring significant coal generation.

Increased Reliance on Unreliable Renewables

On the whole, Texas is losing reliable generation and counting solely on wind and solar to keep up with its growing electricity demand. I wrote last summer about how ERCOT was failing to account for the increasing likelihood that an event combining record demand with low wind and solar generation would lead to blackouts. The only surprise was that such a situation occurred during a rare winter freeze and not during the predictable Texas summer heat waves.

Yet ERCOT still should not have been surprised by this event, as its own long-term forecasts indicated it was possible, even in the winter. Although many wind turbines did freeze and total wind generation was at 2 percent of installed capacity Monday night, overall wind production at the time the blackouts began was roughly in line with ERCOT forecasts from the previous week.

We knew solar would not produce anything during the night, when demand was peaking. Intermittency is not a technical problem but a fundamental reality when trying to generate electricity from wind and solar. This is a known and predictable problem, but Texas regulators fooled themselves into thinking that the risk of such low wind and solar production at the time it was needed most was not significant.

Special Breaks Helped Cause the Blackouts

The primary policy blunder that made this crisis possible is the lavish suite of government incentives for wind and solar. They guarantee profits to big, often foreign corporations and lead to market distortions that prevent reliable generators from building the capacity we need to keep the lights on when wind and solar don’t show up.

Research by the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Life:Powered project found that more than $80 billion of our tax dollars have been spent on wind and solar subsidies in the last decade, in federal subsidies alone. Texans are also charged an average of $1.5 billion a year in state subsidies for renewable energy.

All that cash hasn’t materially changed our energy landscape. Wind and solar still provide just 4 percent of our energy nationwide. The promise that subsidies would kickstart renewable energy technology remains unmet after more than 40 years.

Renewable advocates will be quick to point out that fossil fuels also receive subsidies from the federal government. That’s partially true, but solar companies receive 75 times more money and wind 17 times more per unit of electricity generated. Nevertheless, the best solution for Texans, and all Americans, would be to eliminate all energy subsidies and allow the free market to drive our energy choices.

As politically popular as wind and solar energy are, no amount of greenwashing can cover up their fundamental unreliability and impracticality for anything other than a supplemental energy source. Yet our government — even in the oil country of Texas, home of Spindletop and the Permian Basin — is designed to incentivize renewable energy projects.

Keep This from Happening Again

This week’s blackouts should be a wakeup call to politicians. Overconfidence in renewables led us uncomfortably close to total grid failure — and when the going gets tough, few things really matter to voters as much as access to electricity. Without it, scrambling for the barest necessities like food, water, and warmth becomes expensive, stressful, and all-consuming.

The consequences are potentially deadly. For all the talk of climate change, cold is far deadlier than heat, responsible for 20 times more deaths. Although the cold itself may not kill you — you might not literally freeze to death — it has devastating potential to exacerbate preexisting conditions and make otherwise minor illnesses life-threatening.

It’s a reality far too many know firsthand, as a recent study found increasing natural gas utility prices led to an increase in wintertime deaths as they force families to choose between putting food on the table and paying the heat bill. In this health-conscious era of the COVID-19 crisis, this should be enough to pause any policy discussion that might inhibit electricity access.

Here’s What to Do

The Texas Legislature, and other states hoping to avoid similar messes, should act decisively to protect our electric grid in a few specific ways. First, they should require all electric generation to be “dispatchable,” or readily available — meaning generators guarantee a certain amount of power will be available at all times. No more should we tolerate wind turbines pumping out a measly 2 percent of their capacity and leaving Texas families in the cold.

Second, they should end subsidies for both renewable and traditional energy sources. Research by the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains extensively the problems with energy subsidies, including distorting markets without improving technology or shifting our energy landscape in the slightest. Rather than wasting tax dollars trying (and failing) to pick winners and losers, lawmakers should allow the free market to work.

Finally, they should work to discourage the discriminatory practice of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, which prioritizes political correctness over fiduciary duty and places workers’ and retirees’ futures at risk. Texas and several other states will file legislation soon to prohibit companies that boycott or divest from fossil fuels from doing business with the government. It’s a good start to ensure this energy discrimination campaign doesn’t infiltrate state pensions and investments.

Especially in the bitter cold of winter, a life without electricity is a miserable one. It’s unfortunate that years of poor policy choices — coupled with ERCOT’s mismanagement — made this crisis a reality for so many Texans.

Texans learned firsthand the consequences of unreliable renewable energy this week. If their voices are heard, it won’t happen again.

Wind Energy — and Media Spin — Failed Texas

State Rep. Jared Patterson, HD 106  State Rep. Jared Patterson is a Republican from Frisco

As Texans are dealing with the aftermath of a harrowing week of blackouts, boil-water notices, and frigid temperatures, the finger-pointing has begun. Many of us, my colleagues in the Legislature included, are looking for someone, or something, to blame — understandably so.

But we must move on from searching for a convenient scapegoat to understanding the truth of what happened and finding a solution for the systemic problems that led to the blackouts.

As policy makers, we must be careful that we are not implementing new regulations without considering every working aspect of an industry. As a professional in the electricity industry for 16 years, I want to share my perspective — and one major component of what I believe Texas should do to keep this from becoming a regular occurrence.

First, the record should be set straight since the mainstream media has utterly failed in its responsibility to impartially report the facts. Here’s what the media won’t tell you: wind energy collapsed and investors in Texas have not built the new reliable energy generators necessary to back up wind in an emergency.

Most news sources either ignored or sought to defend wind energy’s near-total failure. The spin was that wind performed “as expected.” They don’t mention that the expectation was near zero because wind is of little use in extreme weather.

Further, many big-league Texas reporters have repeatedly refused to cover important stories like Austin’s $2 billion biomass power plant sitting idle while Texans suffered in the cold.

ERCOT made mistakes — it waited too long to take action to minimize the fallout — and must be held accountable, but the blackouts would have happened anyway because too many reliable power plants have closed. Decades of bad policy decisions have made it almost impossible to make ends meet running natural gas, clean coal, or nuclear. Instead, Texas and the U.S. have offered extravagant subsidies that make wind artificially lucrative — without any obligation to provide consistent, reliable power.

Think of it this way: You own a hamburger stand where you sell burgers for $3 apiece. Then the government provides “incentives” (paid for with our taxes) to a competitor to build another hamburger stand next door. Those incentives allow the new hamburger stand to sell the exact same burgers — and pay their customers to eat them.

In this scenario, how likely are you to be able to maintain and grow your business, to invest in new technology or weatherize your stand? How likely are other culinary entrepreneurs to open new hamburger stands the way they want to, instead of the way the government pushes them to?

Decades of taxpayer-funded subsidies that favor unreliable wind power are crowding reliable energy sources out of the market, weakening the grid, and leading directly to the blackouts we experienced last week.

It’s no surprise — in fact, Texas came close to seeing widespread blackouts in August 2019. Our reserve margin, the buffer of extra electricity between what Texans are using and what we can produce, has become steadily smaller in recent years. And without quick action by state leaders, it will only get worse.

We should eliminate subsidies and tax breaks for energy companies — especially unreliable wind— to allow the free market to function smoothly. We must prioritize reliability and affordability in our electricity choices. Unfortunately, that’s not politically popular. But these are steps we can and must take for our state’s future.

As one solution, I just refiled House Bill 1951 to ensure that the financial costs of unreliable energy are placed on the generators where they belong, instead of passed down to Texas ratepayers and taxpayers who already have enough on their plates. I am confident that HB 1951 will protect Texas’ access to electricity by freeing up generation capacity and ensuring that reliable sources of energy are available to Texans – extreme weather or not. Texans deserve better.

One thought on “How could this happen in Texas, the nation’s energy powerhouse?

Leave a Reply