Discover more from ExxonKnews
Yes, they’re even lying about windmills
Our latest dispatch from the never-ending saga of the fossil fuel industry’s corrosive disinformation campaigns.
Emily Sanders is the Center for Climate Integrity’s editorial lead. You can catch up with her on Twitter here.
This weekend’s winter storm in Texas marked yet another extreme weather emergency fueled by an unstable climate. Millions were left without power for days in below freezing temperatures, which could span days more for many. And that’s on top of a raging pandemic that has already killed more than 40,000 people in Texas and ravaged the same communities of color that are now some of the hardest hit from the fallout of this storm (not to mention fossil fuel pollution in Texas, and climate change more generally.)
While vulnerable Texans faced the freezing cold without power, Big Oil’s political allies took to the airwaves not to help, but to lie, distract, and spread propaganda in defense of fossil fuels.
Energy grids are extremely complicated, and we won’t try to explain all the causes of the Texas disaster here. For that, you can read some very helpful explainers in The New York Times, Texas Tribune, Huffington Post, Bloomberg, and elsewhere. But the takeaway from experts is clear: windmills were not a significant factor in causing Texas’s outages.
Yet again, Big Oil and its political allies saw suffering and calamity as an opportunity to sow climate confusion and hawk their product.
If you turned on Fox News, read conservative news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, or followed elected Republicans on Twitter, you were told the same lie over and over again: renewable energy is to blame for the outages, and fossil fuels are the only solution.
“banish[ing] fossil fuels is a greater existential threat to Americans than climate change.”
Texas Gov Greg Abbott
“It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states.”Sorry but this is utterly psychotic. There’s an emergency in Texas *right now* and he’s dunking on the Green New Deal with complete lies about the source of the problem.Abbott: This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America... https://t.co/Q2jmZHcO6fAcyn Torabi @Acyn
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (who, by the way, received $453,247 in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry)
“Unbeknownst to most people, the Green New Deal came to Texas. The power grid in the state became totally reliant on windmills. Then it got cold and the windmills froze, because that’s what happens in the Green New Deal.”
Harris Faulkner, host of Fox’s The Faulkner Focus
"Millions of Americans in the cold and dark say the lack of power is because of green energy policies and the vilification of oil, gas, and coal -- the stuff that really keeps you warm”
And so many more, including some notorious Koch-and-oil funded climate deniers invited to speak on the show. Honestly, it was hard to pick which ones were worst.
There is just one little problem with all that scaremongering and finger pointing about wind energy: IT. IS. A. LIE. As Chris Hayes put it on MSNBC, “A lie pumped into millions of people's brains as they watch TV.” And a very dangerous one at that.
Most of Texas’s energy comes from fossil fuels — the grid operator was supposed to be getting about 90% of its electricity load from coal, gas and nuclear plants. These facilities usually take a break during the mild Texas winter — but when the cold hit, ill-equipped plants shut down their operations en masse.
At the same time, toxic leaks and air pollution from oil and gas facilities reportedly quadrupled over the past week, threatening the health of surrounding communities — again, primarily Black and brown communities already suffering most from the outages — even further.
Windmills, on the other hand, actually overperformed this week — and it’s not the first time. “In 2014, regulators found that wind energy was actually more reliable than both coal and natural gas during an early January cold snap,” wrote Molly Taft at Earther. The Internet was also quick to point out that lots of cold places, even Alaska and Antarctica, use wind turbines.
But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state agency that runs the Texas power grid, had to say about it:
While ice has forced some turbines to shut down just as a brutal cold wave drives record electricity demand, that’s been the least significant factor in the blackouts, according to Dan Woodfin, a senior director for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid.
Big Oil and its allies have spent decades spreading similar misinformation to deceive the public about climate action and to protect their business as usual. In fact, the lies about Texas fit precisely into the industry’s tried and true strategies that make up their deception playbook, as outlined by academics like Genevieve Guenther:
The fossil fuel industry benefits from making this a culture war issue, posing proponents of renewable energy as a threat to American safety and security — which, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that they knowingly unleashed a slew of disasters that, uh, threaten the safety and security of the public.
And that’s exactly the point: we cannot have honest, fact-based political debate about the climate crisis as long as the dialogue continues to be pumped full of lies by Big Oil’s backers. And until that changes, we’re all paying an increasingly unbearable price.
This is why accountability for the fossil fuel industry is so important. It’s why the nationwide lawsuits about deception and fraud deserve their day in court — and why Congress should use its investigatory powers to get to the bottom of the disinformation campaigns that are still polluting the climate debate to this day.
ICYMI News Roundup