Natural Gas Performed Heroically In Texas, Until It Didn’t

In a recent article for WIRED — The Energy Sector Must Prepare for More Extreme Weather — I detailed some of the primary causes behind the recent power outages in Texas.

One aspect I didn’t cover in that article was the political finger-pointing that went on as the incident unfolded.

Tucker Carlson blamed wind turbines for the power outages. Texas Governor Gregg Abbott followed that up with an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show, stating “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.”

Democratic Representative and Green New Deal supporter Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fired back on Twitter with “The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you *don’t* pursue a Green New Deal.”

How can two sides look at a situation like this and come to polar opposite conclusions about the cause? By telling only a partial story.

I am going to present a full picture below. This first graph shows how one can conclude that freezing wind turbines were the problem, while natural gas was called upon to fill a huge demand surge. Keep in mind that the natural gas demand below is only from electric utilities, but demand for home heating was simultaneously surging.

Hence, one could point to this graphic as evidence that between February 8 and February 10, wind power dropped dramatically while power from natural gas came to the rescue. If you only look at this graphic, then natural gas is the hero of the story.

So natural gas was carrying a heavy load during the early stages of the storm, and that is the source of that particular narrative. Natural gas undoubtedly saved lives early in the storm. Of course, that’s what natural gas is meant to do — supply power when needed.

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