Saturday, March 13, 2021

Update: Why the lights went out in Texas. It wasn't just because of windmills. It wasn't even mainly because of windmills.

by Rod Williams, March 2, 2021 - When the hard freeze, snow, and ice hit Texas in mid February and the lights went out, some, almost gleeful, climate change skeptics said, "See, see, windmills don't work."  My Facebook page was full of these type comments and memes.

Some windmills in Texas did freeze up, but that was only a minor part of the problem.  Even where there was a windmill failure in Texas that does not prove that windmills are a failed technology, as many of my Facebook friends wanted to claim.  In Texas, windmills are not designed to withstand days of sub-zero temperatures and freezing rain. Below about 4 degrees and they shut down. There is a reason why wind turbines in New York keep working in bitter cold weather unlike the ones in Texas. If you care to know why, follow the above link.

In less detail than the story linked above, the Wall Street Journal, explains it more succinctly: "Given the state’s normally warm climate, not all of Texas’ power plants are fully equipped with winterization measures—protections plants use to prevent freezing of pipes, sensors, motors and other components. In northern climates, many winterization measures are permanent and plants are housed within entire building structures for protection from the cold. But experts said that because of Texas’ summer heat, plant operators need to keep components exposed."

The same reason windmills failed in Texas is the same reason a nuclear power plant failed and natural gas failed.  They were not designed for that kind of weather. Actually, natural gas, not wind turbines, was the main driver of the Texas power shortage.

In Texas a lot of things happened to cause the power system to fail. A system that was not designed for days of below zero weather was a major part of the problem and not only windmills failed but so did one of Texas' two nuclear plants and natural gas plants.  Also, however, there was a more complex reason, involving having the wrong financial incentives in place for utilities and an inadequate power grid and regulatory failure. It is explained fully for anyone who wants to actually read an article rather than just consume individual factoids that support one's predetermined opinion or someone who wants to dig deeper than simply have their prejudices reinforced by a cute meme. 

Anytime, I post anything that looks at the nuances of a policy or disagrees with what Rush Limbaugh or some other dogmatic conservative talk show host has said on a subject or something Donald Trump may have said, I am denounced as a liberal or a RINO.  What happened to conservatives?  I know there are ideologically-driven, close-mined, and even conspiracy-believing people on the left, but I think the right end of the political spectrum, has them beat.  I used to think conservatives were so much more rational and reasonable than liberals; not so much anymore.  I don't think it is me that has changed; conservatives have become the know-nothing party of stupid people.  My friend Mark Rogers the other day said of something conservatives were arguing as, "crazier than a gang of QAnon worshipers trying to play Trivial Pursuit."  I love that and think it describes a lot of conservative reasoning these days.

If I reference a source other than one of the new simpleton right wing media publication, the source is rejected. If it is a mainstream source, forget it.  The Washington Post or New York Times or any other liberal mainstream source is simply dismissed as "fake news."  Even long established respected conservative journals are dismissed as "establishment," "RINO," "never Trumpers," "neo-con," or simply "liberal." The other day I referenced an article that appeared in Reason, and a commenter called Reason a liberal publication.  I often disagree with the editorial position of Reason. They are libertarian and I am a mainstream conservative, but they do publish well researched, thought-provoking articles.  I am afraid many opinionated Trump-type populist conservatives don't know the difference between "libertarian," and "librarian." 

Back to the topic at hand. Below are four articles that explain what went wrong in Texas. There are two articles from the Wall Street Journal and one from National Review.  These should be sources conservatives trust.  The other is from The Economist, which you may not know.  They have a more liberal position on some issues than I do, but they are rational, very data-driven, and provide deeply detailed in-depth reporting.   Rather than a journal of opinion, they are a weekly news magazine for people who want to be well-informed.  They are my favorite source for just hard news.

WSJ: Texas Spins Into the Wind

WSJ: The Texas Freeze: Why the Power Grid Failed  

National Review: Ask an Engineer

The Economist: The freeze in Texas exposes America’s infrastructural failings

3/13/2021 update: Here is another source that is essentially a conservative or libertarian trustworthy source explaining why there was a power failure in Texas.  For the new brand of know-nothing, don't-confuse-me-facts populist-conservatives, this will not matter.  They would prefer to trust a cute meme rather than a well-reasoned informed analysis. For everyone else, this confirms what is reported in the other sources and expands on that with additional detail.

Cato Institute: Some Preliminary Thoughts on the Texas Electricity Meltdown

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1 comment:

  1. Conservatives are still around, and they need to speak up, just as you are doing. I believe that a very significant part of Trump's complicated and tangled legacy is his mixture of policies and initiatives and defenses of traditional social values with ba brash and careless kind of populism, and this odd concoction has obscured and tended to discredit all of conservatism.