Millions of Texans didn’t have power Tuesday night, and the arctic blast was still pummeling the state. Many were looking for answers on why they were stuck in the cold and when their heat would return. And Gov. Greg Abbott was being interviewed on Fox News, decrying the Green New Deal — a massive framework of climate change policies that don’t exist in Texas.
Abbott said in an interview with Sean Hannity in the middle of a crisis that “the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.” Ignoring that experts and officials agreed that a disruption in energy powered by fossil fuels was the biggest culprit behind Texas' outages, Abbott added that losses in wind and solar energy “thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power in a statewide basis.”
Dan Woodfin, senior director at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, had said hours earlier that 16 gigawatts of renewable energy, mostly wind power, had gone offline as of Tuesday. But that made up only about a third of the lost power on the state’s grid. Nearly double that capacity had been lost from thermal energy sources like gas and coal. And ERCOT forecast in November that wind energy would make up less than 10% of the overall winter capacity.
The outages have raised questions about the state’s handling of and preparation for the winter storm. Officials knew wintry weather was coming; why hadn’t they been warned about possible disruptions? Why weren’t the power-generating sources that went offline — wind, natural gas and others — better equipped to withstand winter weather? And why didn’t the state have more power in reserve?
Abbott has taken some steps to look into what went wrong for the state, declaring the management of the state’s electrical grid an emergency item for this year’s legislative session and applauding plans for investigations by the state Legislature. But he wasn’t a particularly visible presence for Texans during the storm. He delivered a handful of local television interviews in addition to his appearance on Fox News. His first press conference after the weather hit came more than 60 hours after the widespread power outages began.
In his public comments before that press conference, he wasn’t shy about casting blame. Not only did he denounce the Green New Deal, but also ERCOT, which operates the grid.
“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said Tuesday.
During his news conference Wednesday, which began more than 45 minutes late, Abbott described the weather forecast, discussed energy production capabilities, urged Texans to call plumbers if their pipes are frozen, and listed off the assistance from the federal government. He invited other state officials to detail the help state agencies were providing. But he did little to acknowledge the state’s failure in preparedness, even though there were several warning signs. He also didn’t concede any possible underlying policy failures in his opening speech.