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The Battalion

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Wind turbines aren’t the problem, Texas politicians are

Opinion+writer+Zach+Freeman+discusses+how+Texas+politicians+need+to+be+held+responsible+for+the+rolling+blackouts+that+occurred+across+Texas.
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Opinion writer Zach Freeman discusses how Texas politicians need to be held responsible for the rolling blackouts that occurred across Texas.

Throughout the last week, I have dealt with the rolling blackouts plaguing most of the state. My power cycled on and off at one- to two-hour intervals for several days, and many Texans had it even worse. Some residents were without power for days. Near my hometown of Azle, temperatures got as low as negative two degrees on Tuesday morning. 

Understandably, people wanted answers to why these outages were happening. Some of the first to point fingers were Texan politicians. Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Gov. Greg Abbott both attributed Texas’s power failures to frozen wind turbines. In a Fox News interview on Feb. 16, Abbott stated, “This [situation] shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” blaming wind and solar power specifically.

Media figures like Tucker Carlson were also quick to jump on the bandwagon, and misinformation spread quickly. I first heard people were blaming wind energy when my dad claimed a DFW energy company, Tri-County Electric, was telling customers on Facebook that frozen turbines were at fault.

In reality, wind power has proven to be just as effective for cold-weather energy production as other sources. Southwest Power Pool manages electricity for most of the central United States and discovered wind energy was the only source that outperformed their expectations during the winter storm. Wind turbines in the Arctic circle and Antarctica prove that with proper management, they can produce energy at conditions below negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

The most important factor is that wind energy makes up as little as seven percent of Texas’s energy capacity during winter. Natural gas and other fossil fuels provide 80 percent of our expected energy capacity in winter months. This dependence on natural gas became an issue when more than half of our natural gas energy production went offline during the winter storm. 
Natural gas, in and of itself, is not to blame. The real culprit is our state’s lack of winterization procedures. Texas has simply never put in the money or effort necessary for energy production during extreme winters. 

It seems our politicians are happy to use renewables as a scapegoat. This misdirection protects their fossil fuel interests, while actually doing nothing to fix our problems. 

Our electrical grid’s unpreparedness for severe winter weather is not a new phenomenon. Texas experienced similar winter blackout events in 1989 and 2011. Little was done to correct these issues, and recommendations to winterize our grid were largely ignored.  

Like many, I was originally ready to throw the book at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Although they have their share of the blame, they can only work with what they’ve been given. There is a perfect storm of issues surrounding Texas’s strange, isolated electrical grid. The driving force behind it is a lack of accountability and decades of neglect. 

This winter storm caught our politicians with their pants down. Instead of owning up, they’ve decided that wind energy and faceless acronyms make better bagholders.  

As millions were forced to look at the empty skyscrapers shining above their darkened homes, our leaders were generating nothing but excuses. Texans suffered through below freezing conditions, with limited access to food and clean drinking water, while Ted Cruz was flying to Cancun. They tell us we’re not entitled to anything from them or the electric services we pay for.

Those like Rick Perry, former Texas governor and current board member for Dallas-based company Energy Transfer, have stood as pillars of apathy in these trying times. Speaking on our behalf, Perry said, “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” 

I don’t want the government in my business — I want it in your business, Rick Perry. The average Texan has no say in how our grid is run because it has never been our business. We just have to live with the consequences of your 15 years of inaction as governor while you benefit from skyrocketing electricity prices.

Dozens of Texans have died as a result of our leaders’ negligence. It’s vital that we don’t let them weaponize people’s grief with misinformation. The people of Texas need to be aware that our governors, state legislature and ERCOT have all let us down. It’s up to us to hold them responsible. Only then can we move forward with repairing and replacing our broken grid for the benefit of all Texans.    

Zachary Freeman is an anthropology junior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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