Politics

Disaster in Texas was Caused by Fossil Fuels, Not Wind Turbines

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Okay everybody let’s start with the facts just in case you don’t feel like watching this entire video:

Humans burn fossil fuels which pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

That leads to an increase in extreme weather events that are deadly and otherwise costly to humans.

Humans come up with new energy resources that don’t lead to adverse events, like windpower.

The Fossil Fuel Industry works hard to buy politicians and convince people to continue to burn fossil fuels.

A resulting extreme weather event directly impacts those politicians’ constituents.

The politicians blame the new energy resources for the problem in an attempt to continue burning fossil fuels.

Oh and it’s all happening during a pandemic that could have been over in a month but is now approaching one year. Because people don’t like to stay home. The human race is so fucked.

So yeah, this is honestly what has just happened in Texas. Scientists have long warned that our use of fossil fuels would lead to us raising the average temperature of Earth, and that that would lead to an increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, like hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and flooding. Sure enough, that is what’s been happening for the past several years.

The Earth’s warming has been most pronounced in the Arctic. This has caused weather patterns to shift, and some scientists think that that’s leading to more frequent polar vortexes, which happen when wind patterns that usually keep cold air up in the Arctic break down, allowing that cold air to pour further south toward the equator. In this case, it funnelled right into Texas. Since Texas is normally quite mild in the winter, the residents and the state’s infrastructure were completely unprepared. As snow fell and temperatures plummeted,more and more energy was needed to keep people warm. That started to overload the system, but the problem was made drastically worse by thermal power plants shutting down because they weren’t properly prepared for the cold blast. To try to keep things running, the energy company instituted rolling blackouts, which weren’t rolling particularly fast since many people were left without power for multiple days, in temperatures that were well-below freezing.

As millions of Texans were without power and dozens of Texans died, their governor Greg Abbot went on Fox News to officially name the number one cause of this disaster: wind turbines.

Abbott, who has accepted more than $26 million from the oil and gas industry ($4 million more than any other lobbying group), wants Texans to know that fossil fuels are more important than ever. In fact, most of the power plants that shut down were natural gas (though one was a nuclear plant and some turbines did freeze). According to the Washington Post, “the loss of power to the grid caused by shutdowns of thermal power plants, primarily those relying on natural gas, dwarfed the dent caused by frozen wind turbines, by a factor of five or six.”

But honestly that’s all moot: both natural gas power plants and alternative energy sources like wind turbines can easily continue to operate even in a freezing cold snap. After all, the world’s largest wind farm is located in China’s Gansu Province, where the average temperature is 50F (10C) and nighttime temperatures in the winter average around 5F (-15C). The problem Texas ran into was actually caused by capitalism, or at best capitalism and a complete rejection of the scientific consensus on global warming and extreme weather events: due to statewide deregulation, the private operators of the power plants had absolutely no incentive to spend money preparing their outlets for winter weather.

The purpose of government is, or should be, to protect people who otherwise would not be protected by private businesses that have no incentive to do so. Why winterize your equipment in the steamy south if polar vortexes are so rare? And if the government is denying that global warming exists and is increasing the frequency and severity of these events, then really, why bother?

A good government would realize, though, that these events are going to be more common and that it’s worth the cost to prevent this from happening again. Literally millions of people without power, and we won’t even know the death toll of this travesty for some time.

Sadly, much like most of the United States, Texas doesn’t have a good government. They have a bunch of psychopaths who instead of helping their constituents fucked off to Cancun to ride out the polar vortex on the beach with a margarita in hand.

The good news is that Texas is getting more and more liberal, and I have to hope that more and more middle class conservatives are realizing that they’re not rich enough to be conservative. Do you have “fly to Cancun on no notice” money? No? Vote these assholes out.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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