“Are we trying to address climate change, or are we only focused on picking winners and losers for some utopian vision that will never come to pass?”
PERSPECTIVE: We need broad portfolio of energy options
Dan Haley, The Gazette, March 7, 2021
The image went viral. A helicopter flying above a frozen wind turbine in Texas, spraying “chemicals” onto its blades to thaw them out.
The caption read: “A helicopter running on fossil fuel spraying a chemical made from fossil fuels onto a wind turbine made with fossil fuels during an ice storm is awesome.”
It was an “ah-ha moment” for many of us who support, and advocate for, the production of America’s oil and natural gas resources. Wind turbines had frozen, and natural gas would ride to the rescue and the rest of the country would finally realize the folly of green energy.
The headlines in mainstream media publications during the early days of the Texas deep freeze clearly told the story:
· Dallas Morning News: “Frozen wind turbines, soaring spot electricity prices”
· Austin American Statesman: “Frozen wind turbines hamper Texas power output”
· Reuters: “Icy weather chills Texas wind energy”
· And closer to home, the Sky Hi News in Granby: “Frozen wind turbines could cause power outages in Grand”
But within a few days, as energy sources eventually began to have issues as demand surged in the extreme cold, renewable energy advocates and the media quickly shifted the narrative:
· Vox: “Texas power outage: Why wind turbines are not to blame”
· The Associated Press: “Texas blackouts fuel false claims about renewable energy”
· Vice: “No, Frozen Wind Turbines Did Not Cause the Texas Blackouts”
Like with most things in our country today, there seemed to be no middle ground and everyone took sides.
But much like that image circulating on social media, the easy story often isn’t the right one. Once you scratch the surface, you begin to see some nuance, and you realize what you’re hearing, or reading, isn’t always true.
And so, it goes with our quest to create a cleaner supply of energy while keeping costs to consumers low and maintaining grid reliability. The real story is complex and nuanced, and unfortunately, the gray areas and substance don’t make for catchy headlines or heated social media posts.
For example, that image of the frozen wind turbine? It actually was a photo from Sweden, not Texas, and it was taken in 2015, not in February. And it involved a company spraying hot water onto a frozen turbine, not chemicals from fossil fuels.
While Texas’ wind energy output plunged in the early days of the deep freeze, power demand from many homes and businesses across the state surged. No energy source was perfect, especially when the power went out and water lines froze, but where there was access to natural gas it shouldered a sizable portion of demand. (See graphic on D4.)
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, “Between 12 a.m. on Feb. 8 and Feb. 16, wind power plunged 93% while coal increased 47% and gas 450%, according to the EIA. Yet the renewable industry and its media mouthpieces are tarring gas, coal and nuclear because they didn’t operate at 100% of their expected potential during the Arctic blast even though wind turbines failed nearly 100%.”
We will continue to learn more about the Texas grid failures in coming days and weeks, and hopefully those facts and data will drive future policy decisions about our need for affordable, efficient, reliable, and cleaner energy.
But the past few weeks also have once again revealed a simple truth: We need a diverse and stable supply of energy to power our needs in the 21st century, and we will continue to need oil and natural gas to help meet those demands.