Almost a month after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the lies and mistruths that have poisoned the public discourse continue nearly unabated. This time the hot air is coming from frigid Texas, amplified by talk radio hosts and cable TV pundits across the country.
Tuesday night, as millions of Texans suffered without water and electricity, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott took to the Fox News airwaves to lay the blame at the feet of alternative energy, of all things.
“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Abbott told Sean Hannity. “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis. ... It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.”
Abbott, of course, had a sympathetic ear in Hannity, and the governor’s talking points were broadcast into homes across the country. Hannity’s Fox stablemate Tucker Carlson told his viewers Texas had become “completely reliant” on windmills for power.
To be sure, wind and solar operations have struggled during the historic cold snap, with thick layers of snow and ice locking many wind turbines in place. But they account for a mere 13% of the power outages, while providing about a quarter of the state’s energy in winter.
More traditional energy sources — coal, gas and nuclear — have fared far worse, according to Abbott’s own energy department. which said most of the state’s woes came from failure to winterize the power-generating systems, including the gas pipelines that account for most of the state’s power. The wind turbines weren’t outfitted to work in cold weather either, unlike those in Minnesota, Antarctica and Greenland.
Most of Texas’ energy grid is privately run, meaning money that should go toward preparing for the extreme weather wrought by climate change is often kept as profit.
Why does this matter to New Englanders, some 2,000 miles away from the misery in Texas? Lies, like cold fronts, have a way of spreading. As Massachusetts and its neighbors continue with the challenging work of expanding access to renewable energy, it can’t afford to have the national conversation on the topic hijacked by deliberate mistruths and falsehoods.