Uses and abuses of Texas power outages [UPDATED]

Sen. Ted Cruz is under attack for flying to Mexico while Texas is facing severe winter weather and power outages. Cruz explained why he went there:

With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.

If true (and I’m unaware of any reason to believe it isn’t), this is a complete defense to the attack on Cruz. Those who suggest that he was derelict in his duty as a Senator should explain what Cruz could have done to help his state, beyond having his staff in constant contact with officials, during the brief time he was on this trip. Photo ops might have helped him, but not Texans.

As one emailer put it:

What the heck was Cruz supposed to be doing, taking a gas powered hair dryer to every frozen windmill in west Texas?

The reference to windmills calls to mind the debate over the degree to which wind farms are responsible for the Texas blackout. The New York Times rallies to the defense of renewable energy with this story called, “No, Wind Farms Aren’t the Main Cause of the Texas Blackouts.” The Times notes that wind farms make up only about 7 percent of the power mix this time of year.

That’s true, I think (but see the update below). However, it’s also true that renewables, mostly wind, make up a disproportionate share of the downed capacity, about 40 percent of it — 18 gigawatts of the 45 gigawatts taken offline — according to the left-leaning Texas Tribune, relying on figures from the state electricity-grid manager. So wind farms are one of the culprits.

As Kevin Williamson says, “when 7 percent of your expected power represents 40 percent of your lost power, that is a significant fact.” Williamson adds:

Renewables have been subsidized pretty richly, and it is not unreasonable to ask: What if that money had instead been spent on preparing the rest of the electricity infrastructure for events such as this storm — unusual, but by no means unforeseeable — and what light does answering that question throw on future policy decisions?

The mainstream media isn’t solely playing defense on Texas’ problems. It’s going on the attack (and not just against Ted Cruz). For example, at the Washington Post, Karen Attiah, an editor, has an op-ed called “It’s time to bury the myth of Texan exceptionalism.”

The funny thing is that readers who rely on the Post for their news are unlikely to know that there’s such a concept as Texan exceptionalism. But many ordinary Americans know about it. That’s why so many have moved there, a trend that will continue in all likelihood.

UPDATE: A reader informs me that the Times’ claim that wind farms make up only about 7 percent of the Texas power mix this time of year is almost certainly bogus. Citing the federal government’s energy information agency (EIA) website, he writes:

From Feb 3 through the 9th, which had average weather, wind and solar together average 37% of all electric generation in the state. 34% of all generation was from wind power alone.

Wind power averaged 26% of the total for January.

After the cold snap, wind and solar generated about 10%.

(Emphasis added)

Citing usage data from the period after wind farms failed to deliver power seems like a major abuse of the outages.

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