Updated: Feb 25
When Green Energy destroys lives and livelihoods.
Three days into the 2010 Oil Spill, BP had secured 150 metric tons of “green” oil dispersant from Norway. Ready to be flown to the Gulf of Mexico to help contain the runaway spill, President Obama’s EPA threw down a red-tape gauntlet and prevented delivery.
Why did the so-called “green” president do that in the midst of an unfolding environmental crisis? A deeper look uncovered the EPA had blocked the EU-approved clean dispersant, in order to protect the EU-rejected, American-manufactured dispersant. That regulatory decision sank millions of barrels of oil—not dispersed it—to the bottom of the Gulf, creating a 25-mile wide black ring emanating from the wellbore that devastated marine life. The reason why the EPA chose winners and losers was to protect key politicians, who lined their pockets from shares, board seats, and advisory roles in the Illinois dispersant company.
Politicians made a killing at the expense of the Gulf Coast residents, ecosystem, and businesses.
Not to be outdone, a month later the EPA struck again. This time they blocked Dutch oil skimmers from entering into action. The reason? The skimmers filtered and recycled the oil onboard, and would have ended up ejecting a “few drops” back into the oil slick sea.
In Texas’ dark winter of hell, proved history does repeat itself. This time it wasn’t Obama, but his lieutenant Joe Biden who sat in a position of power. And once again, in the middle of a raging crisis with an all but guaranteed catastrophic outcome, Biden’s Acting Secretary of the Dept. of Energy, David Huizenga, used the pen over logic and a sense of urgency.
In his version of being an armchair quarterback, Huizenga wrote a four-page memo, Order No.202-21-1, making it clear that Texas would do its best not to break any EPA regulations outlined in the order. Call that an economic death sentence.
The memo’s second paragraph reads:
“On February 14, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the Independent System Operator (ISO) whose service territory includes 90 percent of the electric customers in the state of Texas, filed a Request for Emergency Order Under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act (Application) with the United States Department of Energy (Department) ‘to preserve the reliability of bulk electric power system.’”
Acting Secretary Huizenga wrote on (emphasis mine):
“I hereby determine that an emergency exists in Texas due to a shortage of electric energy, a shortage of facilities for the generation of electric energy, and other causes, and that issuance of this Order will meet the emergency and serve the public interest.”
That would have been fine had Huizenga, acting on Biden’s behalf, gave ERCOT and Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) a green light to deal with the impending disaster that power outages would cause from the arctic blast. But that’s not what he did.
Huizenga’s instructions rambled on for another three pages, citing several EPA regulations not to break, including these winners:
“… authorizing ‘the provision of additional energy from all generation units subject to emissions or other permit limits’ in the ERCOT region.”
“I direct ERCOT to dispatch such unit or units and to order their operation only as needed to maintain the reliability of the power grid in the ERCOT region when the demand on the ERCOT system exceeds expected energy and reserve requirements.”
“ERCOT anticipates that this Order may result in exceedance of emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and carbon monoxide emissions, as well as wastewater release limits.”
“Carbon monoxide emissions” did indeed become a major problem, just not in the way Huizenga imagined. Several Texas died from carbon monoxide poisoning from their running vehicles as they tried to stay warm and survive the brutal cold air mass. Other people died in their living rooms, frozen solid to the furniture.
“Wastewater release” presented yet another cold reality with the statewide blackout that crippled water pumps, froze pipes, and left 15 million people without water.
When should ERCOT, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and DOE Acting Secretary David Huizenga take a bow?
The DOE memo finished by making sure that ERCOT would update the out-of-state power generation needs and contact the DOE with an “Exhibit A” with its application whenever the Texas grid would exceed EPA requirements, while also providing “environmental impacts” from the list of fossil fuel pollutants that would exceed limits in a one-off action to contend with the crisis.
Trigger shy, ERCOT CEO Bill Magness went to out of state suppliers searching for green renewable energy only. That massive mistake compounded the human error of the DOE regulatory handcuffs and the gross negligence committed by Governor Greg Abbott for not stepping in and taking control of the emergency.
Green Energy Flights of Fancy
In 2019, the city of Austin had built a $1 billion biomass power plant. According to local news KXAN, “Austin’s East Texas biomass power plant—a facility that burns wood waste to generate more than 100 megawatts of power—was not turned on a single time over the past week… It could have powered more than 20,000 homes.”
But last May, Austin Energy informed ERCOT that it would “suspend year-round operations” and run the plant seasonal from May to October. They chose the wrong season not to operate.
Before the mid-February storm, ERCOT published a fact sheet detailing the 26 million customers it serves, a bar chart on the breakdown of the different types of power generation. They include Wind at 24.8% and Solar at 3.8%. The subzero temperatures froze many of the Big Wind propellers from operating, while snow covered the solar panels neutering their ability to generate power.
From the same sheet, on January 30, ERCOT achieved a record for “wind penetration” at 60.4%. What that means is: All the wind power combined never works at full capacity at any one time, since the wind farms are scattered across huge swaths of the Longhorn State. Simply put, they blow different wind loads at different times. Thus, 60.4% penetration of 24.8% total capacity brings the statewide wind generation down to under 15 percent. And if half of the operating wind farms were inoperable, due to the deep freeze, the impact to the overall power supply to the Texas grid would be less than eight percent.
Wind on its own did not cause the massive blackouts and power outages. So, what did? What happened to the natural gas and coal plants that makeup two-thirds of the state’s power generation?
Something doesn’t add up in Texas.
The state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton declared he will launch an investigation into ERCOT. Public sentiment of the nonprofit imploded when various facts and truths leaked out. The nonprofit, run by a 15-member board, including five living out of state, spent a whopping forty—40!—seconds preparing for the polar vortex that was barreling south at the February 9, 2021, board meeting. The new Chairwoman Sally Talberg, who lives all the way north in Michigan, had been just days into her new position. Under massive pressure, she and three other out-of-state board members resigned, and one slotted for a new board seat has now declined to take it
This story is just getting started. The fallout is severe and the anger growing by the day.
The DOE’s 4-page memo, ERCOT’s CEO Bill Magness failing to act, and Governor Abbott becoming a doormat for Washington to walk all over him and dictate power generation in Texas is a crime with, at bare minimum, four suspects. But there are likely many, many more.
The DOE torpedoed Texas. If you’re keeping score, the memo and incompetence of those in authority hit the state with $50 billion in damages and lost opportunity costs, scores of dead people, ruined lives and businesses, and at least one million man-hours of yearlong plumbing repairs to fix burst pipes and damaged water pumps.
Texas agriculture—food and fiber sector—accounts for $100 billion per year. 86 percent of the land in Texas serves some “form of agricultural production.” And, of course, Texas is number one in the United States in the number of cattle and calves at 13 percent.
With energy bills exploding and food supply chains severely disrupted, many people in Texas want blood. They aim to get it.
They can start with the human decisions that created the unprecedented disaster with the bureaucrats in Austin and Washington, DC.