While widespread blackouts continued in Texas on Wednesday and over 3 million people remained without power, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Fox that the solar and wind energy in his state are to blame for the blackouts. This is a reversal of what he said on Tuesday and what has been found to be the actual culprit behind the blackouts: natural gas generators.
Estimates vary, but a majority of Texas’s winter energy supply comes from oil, gas or nuclear, with a smaller percentage coming from wind energy. Experts have said that, while many conservatives have taken this opportunity to attack wind turbines, much of the failure to generate enough energy currently in Texas has been brought on by the state’s reliance on natural gas.
Abbott seemed to acknowledge that on Monday and Tuesday afternoon when he said on Twitter and on local news channels, as climate writer Brad Johnson pointed out, that the natural gas generators were mostly to blame.
“There are several people who have really fallen short here,” Abbott told WFAA, a Dallas-based ABC affiliate. Many power generators simply aren’t operational right now, he said, due to “a lack of natural gas arriving to power generation centers across the state, and that’s because the ability to both manufacture and to ship and transport natural gas has been frozen.” He also blamed the organization that oversees the state’s electrical grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for failing to communicate with customers.
But then, on Tuesday night and on national news, as many conservatives were spreading false claims that wind energy was largely to blame for the blackouts, Abbott sang a different tune from the one he sang before. “[The blackouts show] how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” said Abbott on Hannity. “Our wind and our solar got shut down and they were, collectively, more than 10 percent of our power grid. And that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.”
Many were immediately critical of Abbott’s attempt to smear clean energy when most reporting now shows that natural gas generators are mostly at fault. And many criticized him for going on Fox to attack the Green New Deal while millions were suffering.
“So many Texans are in desperate conditions without heat, water, and little relief,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) on Wednesday. “Gov. Abbott needs to get off TV pointing fingers & start helping people. After that, he needs to read a book on his own state’s energy supply. I’ll be prepping TX relief emails if he needs help.”
Meanwhile, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggested in a blog post on Wednesday that Texans would rather suffer through blackouts that are leaving millions of them desperate for warmth and sufficient shelter than switch to a federally-regulated electrical grid. Some have criticized the state’s independent grid for being partly culpable for the blackouts during this storm.
The blackouts have been devastating, and there seems to be no end in sight right now. Though more residents have been reconnected to power, the grid was producing less energy on Wednesday morning than it was at the same time on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported. And many places across the state, including Houston, have now issued boil advisories for tap water — assuming that people even have running water or can turn on their stoves.
The blackouts are also an issue of racial injustice, as the New York Times reports that Black and other marginalized communities were among the first to get their power turned off when the blackouts started — and may be the last to get their power turned back on. This is compounded by the fact that many of these communities are also poor and are less likely to have good insulation in their homes as temperatures reach record lows in some parts of Texas.