Ex-energy secretary: Texas storm shuttering green energy ‘avoidable tragedy’
Former U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette argues the situation in Texas following a storm shows the importance of having ‘a diverse energy supply.’
Former U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette argued on Tuesday that the situation in Texas following the winter storm shows having “a diverse energy supply” is necessary.
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Speaking on “Mornings with Maria,” he stressed that the Texas storm shuttering green energy was an “avoidable tragedy.”
A blast of wintry weather that has dumped snow and ice across the nation’s midsection has left more than 4 million homes and businesses in Texas without power on Tuesday morning as temperatures dipped into the single digits overnight.
More than 1 million of those outages were reported in the Houston area, according to Poweroutage.us, a website that tracks disruptions. Elsewhere, more than 300,000 customers are without power in both the San Antonio and Austin areas, it added.
Freezing weather idled many of the state’s wind turbines and resulted in reduced oil and gas production, impacting the electricity generators that rely on fossil fuels.
"Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now," Electric Reliability Council of Texas President (ERCOT) and CEO Bill Magness said in a statement. ERCOT manages power for more than 26 million Texans, about 90% of the state’s electric load.
On Tuesday morning ERCOT tweeted, “We should be able to restore some customers this afternoon due to additional wind & solar output, & additional thermal generation that has told us they expect to become available."
"But, the amount we restore will depend on how much generation is actually able to come online,” the tweet continued.
Sub-zero temperatures and wind chills are expected to persist through Tuesday, leading to further pressure on the grid.
The unprecedented demand has caused spot electricity prices in Texas’ West hub to spike above the grid’s $9,000 per megawatt-hour cap. Power typically costs $25 per megawatt-hour.
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The cold weather currently gripping that region is responsible for at least nine deaths. In Houston, a woman and a girl died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at a home without electricity from a car running in an attached garage, police have said.
“What we’re seeing today, is an avoidable tragedy,” Brouillette said. “In the previous administration under the leadership of President Trump, what he directed me to do and what he directed my predecessor to do, Sec. Rick Perry, was to produce all forms of energy here in America.”
“So it’s not only that we produced more energy in America, we produced different forms of energy that included fossil energy, it included things like natural gas and oil here in America,” he continued, noting that the U.S. is “now the largest producer of those products in the world.”
In a series of orders aimed at combating climate change, President Biden has put the focus on renewable energy. Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline project on his first day in office, ending a project that was expected to employ more than 11,0000 Americans this year.
In addition to halting the 1,700-mile pipeline, Biden temporarily suspended the issuance of oil and gas permits on federal lands and waters.
“The important thing about what we are seeing in Texas today is that we need diverse energy supply,” Brouillette stressed on Tuesday.
He added, “the weather is certainly, behind some of this, but the weather is not the cause of the tragedy, it’s the policies that we’ve decided to follow.”
“And what I mean by that is we’ve moved away from what is known as ‘baseload electricity’ and we’ve moved to intermittent and sometimes unreliable renewable energy and that technology is not yet ready for prime time,” he continued.
Baseload power “refers to the minimum amount of electric power needed to be supplied to the electrical grid at any given time,” according to the University of Calgary.
Brouillette made a similar case for California in August speaking with “Varney & Co.” saying the state’s emphasis on renewable energy is “a case study in how not to approach our electricity grid and how not to approach the energy needs of this country.
Brouillette made the comments as California firefighters, with the help of reinforcements from other states, were trying to gain ground on a number of wildfires that had killed several people and had damaged more than 1,200 buildings and homes.
The former secretary said at the time that California “moved away from what’s known as ‘baseload power’ much too quickly and much too rapidly and their entire strategy was to go to 100% renewables, wind and solar primarily, and then when needed, import power from neighboring states.
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“It’s the rough equivalent of saying, ‘I’m not going to purchase a car because I’m environmentally sensitive, I’m just going to borrow my friend’s car whenever I need one,’" he added. “That’s fine until both of you need it at the same time and that’s what happened here. So it’s hot not only in California, it’s hot in Arizona and Nevada. It’s hot in other parts of the west and there’s no power to send to California so we’re starting to see these brownouts.”
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Fox News’ Greg Norman, FOX Business’ Jonathan Garber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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