September 21, 2022

MAGA GASLIGHTS ITSELF (profanity alert):

Greg Abbott's Failures Mean Texas Could Suffer Another Freezing Winter Blackout: In a new documentary, filmmaker Steve Mims tells the truth about the deadly 2021 Texas blackout. (PAUL ALEXANDER,  SEPTEMBER 21, 2022, The Bulwark)

Now Steve Mims, a veteran filmmaker (Arlo and Julie, Starving the Beast), has made a short film, Disaster by Design, that addresses some of lingering questions about Uri. The strength of the film emerges from interviews Mims conducted with experts in the energy field. Doug Lewin, of Stoic Energy, and Virginia Palacios, of Commission Shift (a watchdog group), are impressive, but inclusion of Jerry Patterson, the Texas land commissioner, a Republican who breaks ranks with the state's Republican establishment, gives the film a bipartisan credibility it would not have otherwise.

As for the cause of the disaster, Abbott and his supporters tried to find scapegoats. An easy target was renewables like wind and solar power. On Fox, Sean Hannity claimed that "energy-producing wind turbines are freezing, not working" while Tucker Carlson announced that "the windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died." And Abbott charged that when wind and solar producers "shut down," it "thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis." Some such assertions were based on early reporting, which overstated the relevance of renewable energy supplies to the overall problem; later reporting set the record straight. To debunk these erroneous claims, Mims quotes Jerry Patterson. "This 'blame-it-on-the-wind' is bu[....]t," Patterson deadpans in the film. "Let's find a scapegoat. . . Wind, that'll be our scapegoat."

Abbott found more success blaming the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). "ERCOT's annual winter assessment . . . assured the public that there would be enough power to meet peak demand this winter," Abbott said--later noting that "those assurances turned out to be false." What Abbott failed to mention was that the members of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT, are appointed by him, making him the ultimate authority over the agency he was blaming for the catastrophe.

The disaster's actual cause, as Mims documents, was straightforward. Water froze in the wellheads in the natural gas pipelines, meaning natural gas could not flow through the pipelines, and since Texas gets more than half of its energy from natural gas the grid could not provide sufficient power from other sources so it collapsed. As for the wellheads, they froze because they were not winterized, which would have been required if Texas had not deregulated its electricity production in 1999. So, the ultimate culprit behind Winter Storm Uri was deregulation.

Who benefited? The oil and gas companies who argued for deregulation in the first place. In a deregulated market, prices fluctuate according to demand; during Uri demand was so high that prices skyrocketed from $36 to $9,000 per megawatt hour. Companies that somehow kept their energy flowing saw enormous windfall profits as did some companies that lost power for all or part of the four days but cashed in when the astronomical prices remained artificially inflated even after power was restored. During Uri, Jerry Jones's energy company made so much money his CEO said it was "like hitting the jackpot," while BP raked in $1 billion, Energy Transfer $2.4 billion. "If you want to be angry," Lewin tells Mims, "look at those people who walked away with $11 billion"--the total pocketed by oil and gas companies that made money off Uri.

They're gonna need more Teslas to sleep in.

Posted by at September 21, 2022 12:00 AM