About 2.6 million homes in Texas are still reportedly without power

By Sean Neumann
February 17, 2021 04:07 PM
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Texas power outages
| Credit: Cooper Neill/Bloomberg via Getty

An unusually cold winter blast has caused power outages around many parts of the U.S., while it's sparked debate among many lawmakers over what exact failure is causing the mid-February electricity crisis.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that across the country, more than 100 million people live in places under winter weather warnings.

In the Midwest, snow fall was expected from northern Minnesota down to Texas, where lawmakers' arguments about power outages have raged on throughout Wednesday morning.

Some prominent Republicans in Texas, like Rep. Dan Crenshaw, raised eyebrows when they blamed the widespread power outages across the Lone Star State on frozen wind turbines.

However, scientists and energy experts quickly moved to debunk those claims, which they say are false.

"Texas is a gas state," Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Texas Tribune. The newspaper reports that about 80% of the state's power grid runs on "natural gas, coal and some nuclear power."

Texas power outages
| Credit: CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Shutterstock

CBS News also reported the Texas power grid is not as prepared for cold winter weather as it is for hot summer weather.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which said it provides electricity to about 90% of the state, largely operates on gas and coal energy, according to CBS News. Texas is also the only U.S. state with its own separate power grid, the outlet reported.

An ERCOT representative said during a press conference Wednesday that about 45,000 megawatts were out, according to the AP. Of that 45,000 megawatt outage, about 30,000 came from gas, coal and nuclear energy sources, while around 16,000 came from wind and solar energy, the energy supplier said, per the AP.

To sum it all up? "Gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now," Webber told the Tribune.

Icicles on a home in McKinney, Texas
| Credit: Cooper Neill/Bloomberg via Getty

But that didn't stop Republicans in the state from blaming clean energy for the ongoing crisis.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wrote on Facebook that Texas "should never build another wind turbine" again.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who said ERCOT's failure was "unacceptable" and that he was launching an investigation into the energy supplier Wednesday, told Fox News the crisis "shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who introduced the climate proposal to Congress in February 2019, responded to Abbott's claim Wednesday: "The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you *don't* pursue a Green New Deal," the New York representative tweeted.

About 2.6 million homes in Texas are still without power, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the outages.

"It's really natural gas and coal and nuclear that are providing the bulk of the electricity and that's the bulk of the cause of the blackouts," Mark Jacobson, the director of Stanford University's Atmosphere/Energy program, told the AP.

Meanwhile, the Post reported the cost of producing electricity there has skyrocketed exponentially. In Houston, according to the outlet, the wholesale price of electricity has shot up from $22 a megawatt-hour to $9,000 — though that increase is temporary because of the power outages caused by the unusually cold weather.

"We know millions of people are suffering," ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a statement. "We have no other priority than getting them electricity. No other priority."

President Joe Biden signed an emergency disaster declaration on Sunday in response to the winter storm, ordering "federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts."

Vice President Kamala Harris also acknowledged the emergency during a Wednesday morning appearance on the Today show, sending a message directly to the impacted Texas residents.

"I know they can't see us right now because they're without electricity," Harris, 56, said, "but the president and I are thinking of them and really hope that we can do everything that is possible through the signing of the emergency orders to get federal relief to support them."