White House rebuts claims that green energy is to blame for Texas power outages

The White House pushed back Wednesday on claims made by conservative politicians and pundits blaming renewable energy sources for widespread power outages in Texas in the wake of this week's unprecedented winter storms.

Asked to comment on former Energy Secretary Rick Perry's assessment that too much reliance on wind and solar power was at least partly responsible for the blackouts that have left millions of Texans in the dark, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the opposite was true.

“There have been some inaccurate accusations out there — I’m not sure if former Energy Secretary Perry made these — that renewables caused failures in Texas’s power grid,” Psaki told reporters. “Actually, numerous reports have actually shown the contrary — that it was failures in coal and natural gas that contributed to the state’s power shortages. And officials at Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid, have gone so far as to say that wind and solar were the least significant factors in the blackouts.”

In a blog post to the website of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Perry — a former Texas governor — said that Texans would be willing to endure blackouts in order for the state to maintain control of its own power grid.

“Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” Perry said, according to the blog. “Try not to let whatever the crisis of the day is take your eye off of having a resilient grid that keeps America safe personally, economically, and strategically.”

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) runs the grid for the state and is not under federal oversight. Perry also took a swipe at the growing reliance on wind and solar energy used to power the state.

“If wind and solar is where we’re headed, the last 48 hours ought to give everybody a real pause and go wait a minute,” Perry said. “We need to have a baseload. And the only way you can get a baseload in this country is [with] natural gas, coal, and nuclear.”

As of Wednesday, more than a quarter of Texas residents have been without power for about 72 hours, and extreme low temperatures are forecast to continue throughout the weekend.

Pike Electric service trucks
Electric service trucks are called into service after a snow storm in Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Perry's attack on renewable energy sources is far from unique. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, also pointed the finger at wind power in a Tuesday tweet. And Tucker Carlson, in his Fox News program on Monday, also lashed out at windmills.

“So it was all working great until the day it got cold outside. The windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died,” Carlson said.

But Dan Woodfin, a senior director at ERCOT, threw cold water on those claims Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.

“It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system,” Woodfin said.

Rep. Rafael Anchía, a Democratic member of the Texas Legislature, also rebutted the notion that green energy was to blame for the power woes in the state.

Roughly 47 percent of the electricity generated in Texas comes from natural gas, according to government figures provided by ERCOT. Twenty percent is generated from coal and another 20 percent from wind. Just 11 percent is generated from nuclear plants and just over 1 percent comes from solar sources.

Natural gas production fell dramatically as temperatures plummeted, limiting the amount of power that plants in Texas could produce, the Houston Chronicle reported.

At a Wednesday press conference, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott found himself under fire over his attempts to shift blame to renewable energy for his state’s power failures.

“The fact is every source of power Texas has access to has been compromised because of the over-cold temperature or because of equipment failures,” Abbott said.

Asked specifically about remarks he made Tuesday in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity in which said the power outages should serve as a warning about adopting the so-called Green New Deal plan for cutting carbon emissions, Abbott backtracked.

“What I made clear was the fact that if we relied solely upon green energy that would be a challenge, but in Texas we do not rely solely on green energy. We have access to all sources of energy.”

One of the authors of the Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also weighed in on Abbott's earlier claims.

Climate scientists warn that extreme winter storms like the one that has crippled much of the nation this week are likely to continue for decades even as the planet continues warming.


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