Let’s start with Tucker Carlson and Fox News:
On the February 15 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host not only suggested that the freezing temperatures that hit Texas bring into question the very existence of global warming, but he also claimed that the state’s inability to keep the lights on was due to its “reckless reliance on windmills,” which he even acknowledged account for only “a quarter of the energy” makeup in Texas (with the majority of power coming from natural gas and coal). To discuss the outages, host Tucker Carlson invited climate denier and frequent Fox guest Marc Morano, who once claimed CO2 is not pollution because we exhale it.
Fox’s morning opinion- and so-called “news”-side shows picked up on Carlson’s misleading narrative — pinning the Texas outages exclusively on wind energy while largely failing to acknowledge that the state is overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels.
Coverage of the outages during the February 16 edition of Fox & Friends First ran under the chyron “Texas Power Issues Blamed on Frozen Wind Turbines.” Fox & Friends framed discussion of the outages around the question of whether this is “what America would look like under the Green New Deal” and enlisted climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg to respond. Lomborg, who is part of the Koch network and has long been a proponent of fossil fuels, spewed outdated and false information about the reliability of renewable energy.
Moving on to the Republican Party:
The electricity outages suffered by millions of Texans amid frigid temperatures sweeping across the United States have been seized upon by conservative commentators presenting a false narrative that renewable power was to blame.
“We should never build another wind turbine in Texas,” read a Facebook post on Tuesday by the state’s agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller. “The experiment failed big time.”
Other social media users, including Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado, labelled the Green New Deal as the culprit. Boebert tweeted on Monday that the proposal was “proven unsustainable as renewables are clearly unreliable”. But no version of the Green New Deal exists in Texas or nationwide, said Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. “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,” Jacobson told the Associated Press.
At least two million people were left without power in Texas as temperatures plummeted and snow piled up on Monday. Wholesale power prices careened toward all-time highs. Worryingly, some 60 percent of homes in Texas get their heat from electricity, with many using heat pumps that can fail in extreme conditions.* Perhaps counterintuitively, those conditions are in part the product of a climate crisis driven by the fossil fuel industry. Warming in the Arctic, research suggests, allows for more cold air to escape farther south. Now fossil fuel backers are spreading misinformation suggesting the blackouts are reason to burn more fossil fuels.
About 90 percent of Texas’s grid is part of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Save for a few lines, ERCOT is largely cut off from power in neighboring states. That’s because back in 1935, the state government was eager to avoid being regulated under the Federal Power Act. The Federal Power Act was passed to regulate interstate electricity sales, in the wake of massive scandals involving utility holding companies. It established what’s known today as the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission. To this day, Texas exists outside of FERC’s jurisdiction.
Within a few hours of grid horror stories percolating out beyond the Lone Star state, outlets like Breitbart and the Wall Street Journal began to publish grisly tales of a green revolution: that an abundance of wind turbines in Texas had been rendered practically useless by a chilly day and posed a danger to state residents. “The windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died,” said Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. Yet a surprising number of mainstream media outlets also adopted the narrative. Reuters, for example, mentioned offline wind resources in the first lines of its story about the outages—illustrated with a picture showing a field of turbines. “Frozen wind turbines contribute to rolling power blackouts across Texas,” ran CNN’s headline. The New York Times led with it, too.