Christian: A Storm of HypocrisyJuly 29, 2021
By Wayne Christian
While no form of energy performed perfectly during Winter Storm Uri, the insistence that natural gas producers are the primary culprit for the February blackouts is pure hyperbole.
But more than just hyperbolic, it is hypocritical to blame a lack of natural gas for an electricity shortage during a weather emergency and then gleefully support Democrats who are trying to get rid of natural gas. You can’t do your best to stop the development of natural gas infrastructure and then be upset when there isn’t enough natural gas to power our society.
Take for example the coverage of the Houston Chronicle’s business columnist, Chris Tomlinson. Tomlinson has frequently written missives about the viability of wind and solar leading to a carbon neutral power grid by 2035.
And yet, since the winter storm, Tomlinson has been on a rampage blaming the unreliability of our grid on a lack of natural gas. In his latest piece, Tomlinson even went as far to admit: “Wind and solar are essential sources of power, but they are not what ERCOT depends on in an emergency.”
It is inconsistent to assert we no longer need fossil fuels to power our society out of one side of his mouth and then out of the other blame a lack of fossil fuels for our shortage of energy. Here are the facts:
During Winter Storm Uri, natural gas outperformed other sources of energy. On average, natural gas represented 46 percent of the electricity on the ERCOT-managed electric grid in 2020 while wind represented 23 percent. During Winter Storm Uri, natural gas generated 67 percent, while wind generated less than 6 percent.
Wind and solar are not as clean as people think. More than 50 percent of the raw materials required to make solar panels and wind turbines are now mined in China by power generated by fossil fuels. China is the largest carbon emitter on Earth and commissioned more coal-fired electric generation capacity last year than the rest of the world retired. We are not reducing our emissions, we are just shipping them overseas.
The issue isn’t the existence of wind and solar energy. It’s that they are inherently unreliable and have displaced reliable generation, like natural gas. Democrats and the green energy lobby in Austin have secured massive subsidies for wind and solar, while imposing punitive regulations on reliable sources of energy.
For example, natural gas is required to replace any power it cannot generate on the spot market. Wind and solar, however, are not. This gives wind and solar energy producers a massive economic advantage. Because of this, wind and solar are always able to make money, whether they are successful or not.
Because of these incredibly unfair market conditions, future planned generation heavily favors unreliable forms of energy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas plans to build power plants that will generate 11.6 gigawatts (GW) of solar electricity, 8.4 GW of wind electricity, and only 5 GW of natural gas electricity. Why build natural gas power plants when politicians in Austin guarantee your wind farm will be profitable no matter what?
Texas is growing by hundreds of thousands of residents each year. If our energy mix is not corrected soon, we will face blackouts as often as they do in California. Don’t believe me? ERCOT issued an alert urging energy conservation on a mild spring day in April earlier this year. That is not a good sign of things to come, and frankly, we will never fix the issue if we keep misdiagnosing the cause in the spirit of political correctness.
About the Railroad Commission:
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.