Tilting at windmills

Letters to the Editor by Aaron Dunbar

Feb 26, 2021

Did you know that Texas generates 70% of its energy from fossil fuels?

If you’re like me, I’m guessing you didn’t.

I’m also guessing that in the wake of a severe arctic storm blasting the United States, you’ve probably heard something to the effect that “frozen wind turbines caused millions of people to lose power during freezing temperatures across the Lone Star state.”

What you probably didn’t hear from these same folks is that wind energy makes up a mere 24% of Texas energy production, and that at least 80% of outages across the state were due to the failures of coal and gas powered plants.

To be clear, wind farms in Texas ran at about half the capacity they were expected to. While there were issues with frozen wind turbines, they can absolutely be used effectively in cold climates if they’re designed to do so (there are, after all, wind farms in Antarctica of all places.)

But of course, Texas isn’t really the type of place where you expect this sort of winter storm to hit as severely as it has, leaving energy systems unprepared to handle such punishingly cold conditions (Texas also has significant issues with its power grid as well as the rampant deregulation of its energy market, both of which contributed immensely to this crisis.)

For all the conservative and fossil fuel industry efforts to paint this tragedy as a consequence of renewable energy and the (currently nonexistent) Green New Deal, there’s actually a strong chance that such unprecedented winter weather is a direct result of climate change, as rapid heating in the arctic pushes frigid air southward.

So to sum up, the fossil fuel industry directly caused the planet to heat, lied about it, played a significant hand in affecting these deadly weather conditions, then lied about their own systems failing in a bid to turn public opinion against renewables, ensuring that additional crises such as this are all but guaranteed.

There’s a very simple word for what’s taking place here: propaganda.

The bad faith actors who spread this dreck will continue to do so at immense cost to human lives for as long as they can get away with it. Learning to recognize these underhanded industry tactics and making a swift transition to renewable energy is the only way we can pursue a fair, livable future on our planet for all.