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Texas’s power crisis

Written By: - Date published: 8:26 am, February 18th, 2021 - 89 comments
Categories: climate change, making shit up, science, spin, us politics, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

Over in the US of A in the great state of Texas and in surrounding states locals are experiencing unusually cold weather and are suffering from the effects.  From the BBC:

A huge winter storm sweeping across the southern US has killed at least 21 people and left millions without power.

There have been widespread blackouts in Texas, where the energy grid was overwhelmed by a surge in demand.

Millions of people in the state, which rarely experiences such low temperatures, have been struggling to cope with the lack of power and frigid conditions.

The extreme weather is forecast to continue until the weekend.

Deaths attributed to the storm have been recorded in Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Missouri.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said more than 150 million Americans were now under winter storm warnings.

And on Tuesday, it reported that more than 73% of the US was covered by snow.

The event was seized on by conservatives to blame renewable energy for the problems.  From Martin Farrer at the Guardian: BBC news:

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.”

Fox News also joined in with one of its presenters, Tucker Carlson, claiming that renewables were to blame and that Texas was “totally reliant on windfarms”. The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial that “the power grid is becoming less reliable due to growing reliance on wind and solar, which can’t provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week”.

Things became really weird when Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert and Texan Governor Greg Abbott and others blamed  the Green New Deal.  The problem with this claim is that there is no Green New Deal anywhere in the US.

 

Again from the Guardian:

… 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.

Ercot said on Tuesday that of the 45,000 total megawatts of power that were offline statewide, about 30,000 consisted of thermal sources – gas, coal and nuclear plants – and 16,000 came from renewable sources.

While Texas has ramped up wind energy in recent years, the state still relies on wind power for only about 25% of its total electricity, according to Ercot data.

The agency confirmed that wellhead freeze-offs and other issues curtailing supply in natural gas systems were primarily to blame for new outages on Tuesday, after severe winter weather caused failures across multiple fuel types in recent days.

As Texas governor Greg Abbott ordered an investigation into the failures of the grid, Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, said the problem was caused by lack of investment in the state’s deregulated power system. Texas is alone in having its own grid. The other lower 48 states are connected to either the eastern or western interconnection grids, and can draw on power supplies across state lines when necessary.

And apparently it is all socialism’s fault.  Tim Boyd, mayor of Colorado City posted this to facebook:

 

Dying unnecessarily because of infrastructure deficiencies is apparently God’s will and you are to blame anyway.

Since posting this Boyd has mercifully resigned.  Even Republican supporters clearly have their limits.

Of course the elephant in the room that is not being mentioned is climate change.  That is apart from seedy backways where idiots are saying that if the earth is warming why is it so cold?  Spoiler alert, climate change will result in more extreme weather, and sometimes it will be colder.

The Green New Deal has never become more important.  Conservatives blaming it for weaknesses in old fashioned power systems that are no longer fit for purpose just show how devoid their understanding of reality is.

 

89 comments on “Texas’s power crisis ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    As a model of the thinking of someone infected with a reactionary, loathsome and toxic syncretic Fascist ideology that Tim Boyd post will take some beating. The ability of US christian fascists to manufacture an utterly delusional culture war with a massive subtext of racism out almost anything would be hilarious, if they weren't actually running entire states.

    • Gabby 1.1

      He sounds like a pissweak useless lazy incompetent in a panic cos he's expected to do something useful.

  2. Ad 2

    "Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish." Jesus agrees.

    Toothless Public Utility Commission, fully privatised system, zero coordination from generators, and a weird-assed Electric Reliability Council of Texas, separation of retail, generation and transmission… (sounds remarkably like our own system) …

    … who to blame: corporations and weak Texan government and their useless legislation.

    It'll need better-directed anger from Democrats if they want to take the Texas Senate and Governorship and Senator in order to do something about it.

    • tc 2.1

      Very much like ours Ad.

      Parts of auckland stay black in outages through a lack of diverse supply (lines company fail) and capex is being witheld apparently to pay out these PR rebates on consumers power bills….systemically supported underinvestment.

      Just changed retailer to shave about $500 off the annual bill…..were so owned by the power system and they know it.

    • In Vino 2.2

      'parish'. One of the best typos I have seen, Sanctuary. Not disagreeing.

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    What the…honestly, so many Americans just seem to have malfunctioning cognitive ability. Beyond redemption or repair, if their disregard for their own and others well being is any indicator.

    A sociopolitical analysis can be made, and many academics and politics pundits and activists have done so–describing the why–but really when the critical mass of fuckwits hits the 70 mill mark what can usefully be done in the middle of global climate disaster?

  4. Pat 4

    Dying of exposure?…how cold is it in Texas?

    That would appear to be some very weird weather….but its OK cause CC is overstated/a hoax.

  5. RedLogix 5

    I really don't get the politicisation here – this weather event which is extreme by Texan standards has exposed a number of engineering vulnerabilities (potential hidden faults always exist) across the entire system. Usually it's some secondary part of the system like a cooling line freezing, or a lubrication system calibrated to run at their ususal hot temps not coping at this low range.

    Big power generators – coal, gas, wind, nuclear – each have literally millions of engineered components and while designs go to a lot of trouble to avoid the obvious single point failures, finding and nailing them all three or four layers down ain't easy or cheap. What is amazing, from the pov of someone who has worked in one, is just how very reliable most plants are.

    The main problem from what I'm reading was the decision to keep most of the Texan grid isolated. Always was going to bite them.

    The next big weakness here has been a lack of spinning reserve – that has meant as units tripped out immediate blackouts became inevitable. On the other hand the trend toward tightly managed grids – driven by the high variability of renewables – means that the conventional approach of having lots of spinning metal sitting around in reserve 99.99% of the time doing nothing was increasingly considered a bit old fashioned. Instead the trend has been toward complex load shedding systems to keep the grid stable. But these have their limits too and as more units went offline for a variety of reasons blackouts became inevitable.

    But to some extent I don’t think we can dodge the fact that renewables are inherently more fragile sources than conventional thermal plants, dependent as they are on a highly variable environment, more complex technology and control systems. And that dealing with this comes at significant cost.

    As an engineer I faced this tradeoff all the time – if you propose a system that you expect will work to an excellent standard – you get moaned at for gold-plating it. So you build it within the only just adequate budget you do get and inevitably something fucks up – and you get moaned at for the shortcoming.

    As a result of this event – the engineers responsible for the managing the Texan grid and the numerous plants that feed it will get some better budgets and shit will get fixed. The political hats exploiting the fuckup for their own purposes will be treated with the usual contempt – there’s never any fixing them.

    • In Vino 5.1

      No, it was not 'always going to bite them' as if under normal circumstances it would happen anyway.

      Warming has disrupted what was normal: spectacular Arctic cold is wafting south each year, while the Arctic itself warms. It will continue, and NZ will probably start experiencing horrible freezing, as the cold of the warming Antarctic starts wafting northwards.

      Same procedure, but the Antarctic is behind the Arctic by many years..

      Global warming is quite likely to wipe us all out, RL, and your optimism is refreshing.

      • Snape 5.1.1

        In Vino,

        Do some fact checking and you’ll find the opposite is true.

        This time series from NOAA shows that as a monthly average, Texas winter’ temperatures have moderated (warmer minimums):

        https://tinyurl.com/4jfxxjju

        The trend is consistent with changes in yearly low temps. Dallas/Fort Worth, as a specific example:

        https://tinyurl.com/befkk2uu

        And consistent with the overall CONUS trend (all seasons) towards less severe cold snaps

        https://tinyurl.com/z8ufzutl

        *******

        Bottom line, it’s not unusual for Arctic air to move south from time to time. What’s changed?….. the air has tended to be warmer than in past decades.

        • Incognito 5.1.1.1

          You’re wasting our time with your ignorance. Please educate yourself about Climate Change before you comment here on this complex topic, thanks.

        • RedLogix 5.1.1.2

          My reaction to that first link is that while aggregating data like that usefully shows exactly what CC has long predicted – increasing temperatures and especially an increasing trend in minimums – it doesn’t help to illuminate outlier events such as this polar storm.

          And the second link you give shows a 'lowest annual temp for Ft Wort' of around -1degC sometime in the 70’s, while reported temperatures from this event in 2021 which is not shown on that graph have been as low as -17degC. What this graph suggests that while 'cold snaps' down to close to freezing are not rare – this event is no ordinary such thing – it's much worse and a lot less common.

          • lprent 5.1.1.2.1

            It was pretty obvious from the end of last year after the earlier predictions of stratospheric warming in the arctic had happened that there were likely to be some really cold snaps in lower northern latitudes this year.

            It is what happens when the arctic warms, and the polar vortex leaks masses of cold air spill down unto eurasia and north america.

            Illiterate idiots like snape above seem to prefer constrained information that reflected their biases rather than looking at the cause and effect. They do seem to be cognitively deficient in recognising what is significiant rather than spurious information. Comes from spending too much time on the couch straining to understand Fox as far as I can tell.

            I'm just surprised that he hasn't dropped back to the younger dryas to explain just how much colder things have been in the past. Of course there wasn't a large population or a concentrated interconnected civilisation in the way of extreme weather events then.

          • Snape 5.1.1.2.2

            Redlogix

            -17F??
            You’re off by either 19F or 15F, depending on where the temperature was observed:

            Dallas Love Field recorded a low of +2F on February 16

            https://tinyurl.com/2plul2te

            The same day, a record low of -2F at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport:

            https://tinyurl.com/yn9yehhh

            Love Field observations go back to 1940:

            https://tinyurl.com/1c0r41ty

            Here are the coldest temperatures (Fahrenheit) and the year they occurred:
            0: 1940
            2: 1949, 2021
            5: 1943, 1983
            7: 1947, 1951, 1982
            8: 1962, 1963

            It’s misguided thinking to assume the recent cold snap, even if a new record, represents a new trend.

            *******

            And, interestingly, you didn’t mention the third graph in my previous post, which demonstrates cold outliers have been DECREASING throughout CONUS.

            BTW, I’m well versed in the lazy jet stream hypothesis you described, and agree it makes a lot of sense. But is it supported by evidence?? Plenty of doubters within the scientific community, like here:

            [Professor Screen, an Associate Professor in Climate Science at Exeter added: “The well-publicized idea that Arctic warming is leading to a wavier jet stream just does not hold up to scrutiny.
            “With the benefit of ten more years of data and model experiments, we find no evidence of long-term changes in waviness despite on-going Arctic warming.”]

            https://tinyurl.com/2y32uhjv

            • Snape 5.1.1.2.2.1

              Lprent,

              Like you I’m nauseated by Faux News, so that was quite the insult. They are the antithesis of an unbiased, evidence based mindset – something I value a great deal.

              Still, loved your link to Severe Weather Europe (had in fact already read it), but as you know weather is not climate. For a similar, but climate related discussion try this:

              https://tinyurl.com/1dtctnst

              [Research has suggested that Arctic amplification has contributed to some recent mid-latitude extremes in the northern hemisphere – including very cold winters in the US and Asia and the Russian 2010 heatwave.

              However, “there’s still a lot of debate in the scientific literature about whether these theories are supported by observations and climate-model experiments”, says Shaffrey.

              And any impact that the Arctic has could be outweighed by influences from elsewhere, adds Woollings:
              “As Arctic warming strengthens, we expect it to impact the jet stream and this could act to increase blocking in some regions. Climate models currently suggest the competing influence of the warming tropics will be more important, consistent with an overall decrease in blocking.”
              Nonetheless, Woollings concludes: “Arctic warming is one of the processes in the mix of several which will shape blocking behaviour in the future.”]

              https://tinyurl.com/1dtctnst

              Notice, particularly, how recent model simulations are at odds with the Jennifer Francis narrative:

              “Climate models currently suggest the competing influence of the warming tropics will be more important, consistent with an overall decrease in blocking.”

              Time will tell who’s closer to the truth – the science is new and evolving.

              • weka

                Is there a particular reason you are using tinyurls? It makes it harder to see if it's worth clicking through, or understand the context of the quote and point being made.

      • Barfly 5.1.2

        The ocean will reduce significantly freezing Antarctic winds affects on NZ – the Texas Arctic winds have taken the land route = more severe

    • Craig H 5.2

      I don't get a lot of the politicisation in the US, but at least part of the issue of the grid failure in Texas is that they have their own grid for political reasons (to avoid federal regulation as being Texas-only avoids interstate commerce as a justification for federal regulation), have been underfunding the maintenance for the usual reasons (more pressing things to spend tax money on, like lower taxes/increases) and meanwhile the Texan Republicans have been whipping up support for secession since the presidential election, only to suddenly run into the brick wall of a generational climate event reminding them why electricity transmission is federally regulated elsewhere and why they are part of a greater whole.

      Add in many Republican politicians looking absolutely useless while Biden is simply keeping right out of the point-scoring and being competent with the immediate emergency declaration and support, and it's hard not to see the contrast both of current politicians and also Trump.

      • Poission 5.2.1

        Texas has ignored the risk of cold outbreaks,which do occur (not unprecedented) and have had similar consequences over the last 30 years.

        The FED report.

        The arctic cold front that descended on the Southwest during the first week of February 2011 was unusually severe in terms of temperature, wind, and duration of the event. In many cities in the Southwest, temperatures remained below freezing for four days, and winds gusted in places to 30 mph or more. The geographic area hit was also extensive, complicating efforts to obtain power and natural gas from neighboring regions. The storm, however, was not without precedent. There were prior severe cold weather events in the Southwest in 1983, 1989, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2010. The worst of these was in 1989, the prior event most comparable to 2011. That year marked the first time ERCOT resorted to system-wide rolling blackouts to prevent more widespread customer outages. In all of those prior years, the natural gas delivery system experienced production declines; however, curtailments to natural gas customers in the region were essentially limited to the years 1989 and 2003.

        https://www.ferc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-05/ReportontheSouthwestColdWeatherEventfromFebruary2011Report.pdf

  6. joe90 6

  7. Snape 7

    “Of course the elephant in the room that is not being mentioned is climate change.”

    The cold snap may have been even colder if not for CC. Nothing to talk about otherwise.

    • Anne 7.1

      Yes. It is the elephant in the room but they are too cowardly to say so.

      No. The cold snap would not have been so cold had it not been for CC.

      CC is producing extreme weather conditions caused by the greater contrasts in the temperatures of the planet's regional weather systems.

      • Snape 7.1.1

        Anne,

        We would see extreme weather conditions with or without climate change.

        If you’re gonna claim Texas’ cold snaps are getting more frequent or more severe, you need to back it up with evidence – a time series showing the new trend.

        • I Feel Love 7.1.1.1

          You made the claim first, where's your evidence?

        • RedLogix 7.1.1.2

          That's not how it works Snape. Normally the polar vortex acts like a door on the polar refrigerators, trapping most of the really frigid cold in the high latitudes.

          However CC has absolutely been warming the region far more than everywhere else – as I've related here on this site before I've worked in the region and experienced for myself temperatures 20degC warmer than they used to be. That's not a typo.

          As a result the polar vortex is weakened and instead of being tightly organised it develops huge wobbles and loops that allow vast masses of frigid air to escape and the result is exactly the kind of event the OP is describing. In the meantime all that cold air displaced south is being replaced by warm air going north – and the temp anomalies in the polar regions are way higher than normal.

          This is all well predicted CC science – I'm not at all optimistic about that. It's about ability to respond to it is where my hope lies.

          • lprent 7.1.1.2.1

            This is all well predicted CC science – I'm not at all optimistic about that. It's about ability to respond to it is where my hope lies.

            It is pretty evident that Texas has had a monumental fail on the respond part of that.

            The problem for us here is that we have a lot of the same issues that are slowly getting responded to. The capacity of the cook strait HVDC 1200MW starts looking a little light when you start to consider polar vortex failures and the South Island.

            While there is a lot of hydro capacity in the South Island, a lot of it is still locked behind the semi-dedicated line to the smelter. SI is almost entirely hydro capacity. Which is why the peak event flows in recent years have tended to be from the north island thermal capacity (fossil and increasingly geothermal) North Island to South Island.

            Get a series of drier years followed by large amounts of cold air spinning off Antarctica, and Texas could come to the South Island. That kind of scenario has to be worrying Transpower.

            • weka 7.1.1.2.1.1

              then there's what will happen if the overdue big shift in the Alpine Fault happens at the point that the severe weather/climate events are intensifying. That's not going to be pretty, although I guess if it happens sooner rather than later we will have some capacity to rebuild infrastructure that is more suited our climate future. Not sure we will be able to retain/increase generation capacity though.

              People really need to also be thinking about civil emergencies and climate events and being able to survive for long periods of time without the grid or centralised services. Texas is a warning for us at that level too. There's a town on the West Coast that's prepping for 3 months of being cut off because of the Big One. Freeze events are another thing, would love to know if CD is planning for this. I've got enough firewood to get me through, but lots of low income people don't, and my elderly parents in Southland are on electricity only. Pulling out all those wood burners and putting in heat pumps was mad.

          • Snape 7.1.1.2.2

            RL

            A last thought just for clarity …. your comment above describes how a weak or strong PV effects our weather. That much is well understood and not in dispute.

            The uncertainty lies WRT climate change. As quoted earlier,

            “With the benefit of ten more years of data and model experiments, we find no evidence of long-term changes in waviness despite on-going Arctic warming.”

        • Anne 7.1.1.3

          If you’re gonna claim Texas’ cold snaps are getting more frequent or more severe, you need to back it up with evidence

          I was talking in general terms. Re-read my second sentence.

          Extreme weather conditions are becoming far more more frequent under CC. Tropical cyclones/hurricanes are often stronger and more destructive. So are winter storms especially in the the northern hemisphere continental regions.

          In the past few decades there has been ample evidence of both of these trends – most of them well documented by media outlets everywhere. The Texas cold snap is just the latest example.

          • Snape 7.1.1.3.1

            Anne,

            Be careful to avoid generalizations. It’s true, extreme temperature events are increasing in CONUS. Extremely warm daily minimums (in terms of departure from normal) have increased, as have extremely warm highs.

            But notice, too, extremely cold temperature anomaly’s have been decreasing:

            https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/beyond-data/climate-change-rule-thumb-cold-things-warming-faster-warm-things

            • Anne 7.1.1.3.1.1

              Perhaps I should enlighten you that my former career required considerable knowledge of meteorology.

              Read Redlogix and lprent for a better understanding of the intricacies surrounding CC.

              Btw, I note you’re one of those who bombard with lots of figures and quotes. It may look impressive but invariably they turn out to be…less than accurate.

              I’m off for a swim so you have the floor to yourself.

    • Barfly 7.2

      I suggest you watch "The Sixth Day"

  8. weston 8

    Hafto say i agree with Tom to an extent .I think most people are far too dependent on power and water being supplied to them and the thinking that those supplies will never cease or be interupted is just stupid imo .The tech to be independent entirely from outside sources is here and available some of it old as the hills like woodstoves for example .Sorry but if your cold the lights have gone out and you cant flush the toilet doesnt it have something to do with the choices you have made ?

    • McFlock 8.1

      21 dead so far and you're blaming personal choices?

      No. Civil defence is a fundamental function of government, because not everyone can have their own bunkers and emergency supplies for the duration of an unexpected disaster (be it natural or artificial).

      • weka 8.1.1

        I think the personal choice narrative is unhelpful. I also think that the point about resiliency is sound. We're making poor choices at all levels. Plenty of people that do have the resources to prep aren't, and those people prepped would be able to take the load off CD and help their neighbours etc, if we had a different cultural mindset.

        • McFlock 8.1.1.1

          Expecting a worker in a Texas apartment block to know how to heat their home and have enough water to drink in a multi-day blizzard when all the utilities fail isn't resilience, it's an abrogation of governmental responsibility.

          • weka 8.1.1.1.1

            I'm not expecting that though. If we look at NZ, see Lynn's comment about the potential for a Texas here, why would we not do community, whānau and individual level prep as well as pressuring the rather useless govt to act? If you feel safe with how CD is going these days I'm glad for you. I don't, I will be relying on my own actions and those of my community as well.

            • Craig H 8.1.1.1.1.1

              Helps that NZ CD have had active campaigns on "Get Thru" after the Christchurch EQ to remind everyone that they won't get to you immediately and to actually have some sort of plan, equipment and food/water.

            • McFlock 8.1.1.1.1.2

              Looking at NZ, it would be unlikely to have a mayor say the government doesn't have a role to play at all.

              Community-level prep is civil defence via the local council. But not everyone is situated to do individual prep for more than a day or two. Especially for power and water to go out in an extreme temperature weather event.

              Yes, people are dependant on utilities infrastructure. That's because the infrastructure is what actually enables cities to exist. Country and suburban folk can have wood stoves and generators. They might even be aware of the fumes problem. In the suburbs, the next problem will be sewage after a few days.

              But in an apartment block, you're screwed when the latent heat is gone from the structure. You don't need three days of water if you'll freeze overnight.

              • weka

                quite. So hands up who thinks governments around the world are prepared for big and nasty climate events? I don't.

                • McFlock

                  That's a reason to improve government responses to earthquakes, blizzards, pandemics, and so on. But personal resilience is a dream for most people in a modern society, and that's the exchange we make to live in a city.

                  Basically, my personal situation is if we have an apocalypse-level decline in trade and infrastructure, I'm not Mad Max or Imorten Joe. A week after the meds run out, I can't walk. I'm not even in the freeway full of abandoned cars and corpses of folks who died trying to flee the city. I'm fucked. But like most people, I can last a few days even if it means losing a bit of weight. That's the window of opportunity government has.

                  • weka

                    I understand. I'm not suggesting that we don't improve government services (that’s always a given, lol). I'm saying that resiliency will come from improved government services and community/local action (in addition). I also think it's going to be harder and harder for governments to keep up as much as we need (climate change impacts will also be about the frequency of stressors on the ability to respond cognitively/emotionally, economically, and in material reality), which means the other is even more important.

                    Lots can be done in cities. This is why I keep banging on about relocalising food. If the shit hits the fan, and the country as a whole is struggling, regions will need to look after themselves. I also think that if we were doing such things regionally, then governments would be freed up to focus on the essentials like meds and critical supplies/infrastructure that communities can't do on their own.

                    Personal reslience isn't self sufficiency. It's recognising that if it takes the govt a week instead of a few days to sort shit out, that a building full of people have alternate ways of keeping warm, accessing drinking water and food. This thinking is completely normal in parts of NZ culture, but not widespread. I think that should change, culturally as much as anything.

                    • weka

                      and needless to say, in a Mad Max scenario I won't be lasting very long either.

                    • RedLogix

                      My view on Mad Max scenarios is that you will be only as good as the people around you.

                      Cohesive, well-led community = get through it OK

                      All other factors, while often important in themselves, are consequent to this.

  9. Enough is Enough 9

    This shows where the war on climate change needs to be fought though.

    We can do whatever we like down here at the end of the world. It won't make a blind bit of difference, if our actions don't persuade the idiots tn China, the US and India to reverse their ways and thinking.

    • tc 9.1

      And there is the dilemma in a nutshell. India is 3% of the global supply chain (GSC) , the Modi govt is very bullish on taking them to 5% with China at 30% of the GSC today.

      Those 2 nations output alone could tip us over despite what anyone else does.

  10. Descendant Of Smith 10

    Here's how to respond to a shortage of power though. Up the prices.

    “I just checked pricing for power in Texas. As of right now, it will cost me about 3,700 for this one week. That’s because the wholesale price for 1 megawatt of power is 9,000 dollars. That’s 1,000 kilowatts for 9 dollars per kilowatt.

  11. aj 11

    Q&A: How is Arctic warming linked to the ‘polar vortex’ and other extreme weather?

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/qa-how-is-arctic-warming-linked-to-polar-vortext-other-extreme-weather

    Why Are Arctic Linkages to Extreme Weather Still up in the Air?

    https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/bams/98/12/bams-d-17-0006.1.xml

  12. Ad 12

    As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has emphasised, Texas has a Republican Senator, Republican Governor, Republican regulators, Republican State Legislature who formed the laws, and is otherwise Republican and independently Texan in every aspect. Even the Senator Mr Cruz has decided it's so bad he may as well fly out on holiday rather than face the media.

    https://aldianews.com/articles/politics/how-rep-alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-green-new-deal-became-talking-point-during-texas

    So this is going to hang on the Republicans no matter what they do. I really like how her interviews have good solid facts with them.

    But it will need more than OAC to really stick it to them if this is going to tilt Texas politically blue as well as blue in the fingers and toes.

    • Andre 12.1

      The idea of Texas being kind of apart from the rest of the US and is sorta-kinda semi-independent is quite popular even among non-Repug Texans. (Until they need federal help, that is). That bolshieness towards the rest of the US is a significant contributor to their systemic lack of resilience and ineffectual recovery efforts.

      So capitalising on it politically might be tougher for Dems than it might first appear.

      • Ad 12.1.1

        It would take a longer electricity calamity than one storm to really turn this political crack into a decent fissure.

        It's not uncommon for US citizens to have a lot more faith in state and local government than they do in the Federal system. I don't see any real threat to Texan autonomy.

        Still, in macro-green politics, every storm helps.

  13. NZJester 13

    They had another situation like this in the past but not as bad that showed up they fact they need more investment in backup systems and infrastructure upgrades. But they never bothered with those upgrades as it would have cut into their profits. This is a situation that could have been just a small manageable situation if they had acted earlier. Pictures of a helicopter spraying a fan with purported toxic chemicals said to be in texas claiming they froze up and caused a lot of the power shortage have been proved false. The picture was a helicopter spraying hot water and I believe was in one of the Scandinavian countries. A lot if the power loss is from natural gas generation plants who are short on gas due to liquid in the pipes with the gas freezing and blocking the supply. The pipes lack any lagging.

    One elected official basically told people to fend for themselves and stop begging for help. He had apparently had already quit before delving the statement.

  14. L Prent response to Snape will be interesting to read.

    • Incognito 14.1

      Why? Hot air coming from a low pressure region …

      • Snape 14.1.1

        Incognito,

        I tried for an evidence based argument (10 links to studies and data), but maybe an appeal to authority is more your thing? Here’s a Q&A with NASA’s senior climate adviser:

        https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/environment/article/Will-climate-change-make-winter-storms-more-15958789.php

        • Incognito 14.1.1.1

          Yes, I need much more authority from you on CC. Your first couple of comments under the OP were hopeless. Subsequently, you started blasting us with tinyurls and getting quotes and units mixed up. Both my comments stand.

          • Snape 14.1.1.1.1

            I’m interested in how arctic warming is effecting the climate at mid-lattides. Tap on those pesky tinyurls and you’ll find some of the latest research and observations.

            Too much effort? Gavin will dumb it down for ya (see the Q&A above).

            • Snape 14.1.1.1.1.1

              mid-latitudes

            • Incognito 14.1.1.1.1.2

              Yeah, Gav was great and answered all the question I never knew I had about CC and with such clarity, he’s a smart cookie, thanks.

              In general, I find that your comments are not convincing and persuasive. Others have noted this too.

              Make of that what you will.

              • Snape

                Trump’s supporters believed the election was rigged, and no amount of evidence to the contrary could change their minds.

                They didn’t want to look at the evidence, didn’t trust it or didn’t understand it – or some combination of the three.

                • Incognito

                  Little children believe in Santa Claus because they like his pressies and Rudolf has a red nose.

  15. RedLogix 15

    By far the best article I've read on this event so far. Essentially because Texas doesn't normally do winter, much of their equipment was not properly 'winterized' – and had not been stress tested for such an event for almost a decade.

    • Sabine 15.1

      Yeah, that is a way of putting it RL, but not so fast.

      The report on the failure of the Texas grid during the last cold spells in 2011 is here, linked below.

      As you can see it was clearly established that they breakdown and failure to deliver electricity was due to no winterization efforts by the companies maintaining the grid.

      Recommendations given to the Texas beige suits

      https://www.ferc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-05/ReportontheSouthwestColdWeatherEventfromFebruary2011Report.pdf

      at the very end of this report you will find recommendations and costings…and guess what, the market fixeth it not, again. The corporations did nothing, and now they get to charge and pay surge prices cause ….one would think of Enron ……..err, capitalism. Anyone else can just invest in terracotta pots and candles to keep warm.

      But i like the idea of the cold spell that knocks out the grid and leaves people without electricity, flushing toilets, drinkable water and such a 'stress test'. Very very corporate of you.

    • NZJester 15.2

      In my previous post on this I pointed out that they had a smaller event that showed up the fact they did need 'winterized' equipment.

      They chose not to invest in the needed upgrades as it would cut into their profit.

      • Muttonbird 15.2.1

        RedLogix will defend the conservative establishment no matter what. His progressive credentials start and finish with the idea that the conservative game is correct but you just have to beat them at it.

        • Incognito 15.2.1.1

          Please no flaming, thanks.

          • Muttonbird 15.2.1.1.1

            Fair enough, but I will point out that RL has on this thread claimed "act of god" defence of Republican authorities, rather than exploring how their ideology contributes to an outcome like this.

            • Incognito 15.2.1.1.1.1

              The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. RL took the PoV of an engineer, mostly, and that appears to be a valid although not exclusive one, IMO. This seems to be an extreme weather event too, which you cannot blame on ideology, no matter how hard you try. The question is where they go from here and will they learn lessons and be better prepared for future events.

              BTW, I’m not defending RL as such, I just like to keep the convo on-topic and constructive 😉

            • fender 15.2.1.1.1.2

              That "act of god" bullshit has always been one of my most dispised phrases. Insurance companies have used it to avoid paying out on legitimate claims ffs. Shouldn't some proof of this "god" existing be required before it can have any merit (?).

              • NZJester

                The even worse bullshit to come out of this is the latest Right Wing talking point that the Green New Deal is responsible for a lot of this. They are trying to tie in a plan for sustainable energy that has not even gotten off the ground yet to the current problems in Texas to help them shoot it down.

                You will see now every time the Green New Deal is brought up they will point to Texas and say, look at what it did to Texas claiming it was the wind turbines that caused a lot of the problems, a set of so called facts that have been disproved.

                The fact that something like investing in The Green New Deal could potentially partly resolve problems like this in the future for Texas will now have that artificial hurdle to overcome as the oil and gas industry fight to keep there dominance in Texas by claiming fake facts like wind turbines can not work in a cold environment, even though wind turbines are used even in some of the coldest places on earth like Antarctica to produce electricity is disgusting.

        • RedLogix 15.2.1.2

          That's OK – I'm not offended or fussed about this.

          As I've outlined elsewhere my view of human society is that we need the whole gamut of value systems – socialist, liberal and conservative – in order to sustain healthy, stable and innovative societies.

          If this means I appear to 'defend the conservative game' from time to time – then so be it. But to think this is all I ever do is a fairly selective reading.

          • Incognito 15.2.1.2.1

            Fair enough.

            It is interesting how you frame it, as if they are completely separate from each other, socialist, liberal and conservative. I would describe them as “ideologies” rather than “value systems”. I believe (!) that respective followers/proponents of these ideologies have many more core values in common than they realise or like to admit. If they were to admit this, it would make a mockery of the huge chasm that seemingly separates them and the counter-productive polarisation that perpetuates this perception. We are more one than none.

            • RedLogix 15.2.1.2.1.1

              Wholehearted agreement Incog. heart

              The purpose of politics is not to defeat your opponents – it is to achieve either by consensus or negotiation outcomes that everyone can live with.

      • RedLogix 15.2.2

        All true – but as the article points out, just how far do you take this?

        Not quite. Dagle told Ars that the earlier event was probably not as cold as the conditions Texas has faced this week. Even if the people operating power plants had made changes that would have gotten them through the 2011 event, those changes might not have been sufficient to handle this week.

        Finally, Dagle noted that, in the absence of actual cold weather, it's hard to test whether the hardware you've put in place to protect against it is actually effective. "It's kind of hard to find all these problems when you can't test it," Dagle said. In Minnesota, you will know if things work in the next winter. In Texas, you might have to wait a decade for a stress test.

        As someone who worked in these kinds of heavy industrial plant most of my life I'm vividly aware of just how hard it is to discover and resolve all of the potential hidden faults in a large complex systems that may have millions of engineered items.

        I've done several major HAZOP studies and they're hard work. At the end of of sitting in all day meetings for 2 -3 weeks the brain is fried. Typically you do get to find and resolve a lot of issues – but you have to draw the line somewhere on just how much money you're going to spend on chasing relatively rare scenarios that become exponentially expensive to mitigate and test for.

        And often the extra stuff you have to add introduces problems of it's own and may only be required to work once or twice in the whole plant lifetime, often never. One of the challenges in safety engineering is how to test that equipment which has a very low demand rate is actually going to work when you need it. Or that the operators can remember how to use it.

        But as I said above – after this the maintenance engineers will get their budget bumped up and stuff will get done. But pretending that we can afford to make everything perfectly resilient against every imaginable event is silly.

        • Muttonbird 15.2.2.1

          As an engineer I would have thought you'd be an advocate of multiple redundancies in structure and design. You appear to be supporting the idea that not quite good enough is good enough, until it isn’t.

          This is what the designers of the CTV building and the Pike River mine thought. With devastating consequences.

          • RedLogix 15.2.2.1.1

            As an engineer I would have thought you'd be an advocate of multiple redundancies in structure and design.

            And as the control systems engineer on these projects that's exactly what I'd argue for – but you have to pick your battles – you're competing for resources with everyone else on the team (who also have their list of perfections) and you never get everything you ask for.

            So yes everything is a compromise to some degree. If you and I do have something in common it's that we're both idealists and learning to live things less that are than perfect is a tough lesson to learn.

            And perhaps what hasn't been made clear is that while Texas has had the occasional cold weather event before, this one got to below -15degC for some days on end. And at that temperature water everywhere that isn't insulated and heated starts freezing even when it's flowing, finding process vulnerabilities that had never been reached before.

            And because so many industrial processes rely on water in many parts of the system – it proved to be one huge common mode failure across many different energy sources. Including I'm sorry to say a major nuclear plant:

            On Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, at 0537, an automatic reactor trip occurred at South Texas Project in Unit 1. The trip resulted from a loss of feedwater attributed to a cold weather-related failure of a pressure sensing lines to the feedwater pumps, causing a false signal, which in turn, caused the feedwater pump to trip. This event occurred in the secondary side of the plant (non-nuclear part of the unit). The reactor trip was a result of the feedwater pump trips. The primary side of the plant (nuclear side) is safe and secured.

  16. Snape 16

    RL

    It's too bad we Americans never switched to the metric system – causes lots of confusion. Yesterday, you assumed a chart was in Celsius. It was actually Fahrenheit, but unlabeled:

    https://tinyurl.com/befkk2uu

    You wrote, “And the second link you give shows a 'lowest annual temp for Ft Wort' of around -1degC sometime in the 70’s, while reported temperatures from this event in 2021 which is not shown on that graph have been as low as -17degC.”

    Adding to the confusion, I misquoted you, again mixing up Fahrenheit and Celsius,

    “-17F??
    You’re off by either 19F or 15F, depending on where the temperature was observed”

    Sorry about that!

  17. I tell you what you can do in the great State of Texas though – much like elsewhere in the USA – assuming you do have a job – Buy a House at a reasonable price which is entirely in line with your Salary/yearly income .

  18. Did you miss the point about having a job ? Look Texas has something like 29 million people living in it . The homeless rate/ percentage In Texas back in 2018/2019 was apparently around 25k – so around 0.09% rounding up .

    https://www.usich.gov/homelessness-statistics/tx/

    Apparently the homelessness level in NZ is closer to 1% ?

    https://borgenproject.org/homelessness-in-new-zealand/

    Can't find a government site showing this – anyone know of one ?

    – so 10x – which is kind of line with the house prices as well

    I think the standard would be better off looking closer at problems in NZ rather than tsk tsking all the time about the latest terrible story from the United States .

    • Incognito 18.1

      Not so fast cowboy, or you might fall off your high horse and hurt yourself.

      It didn’t take me much time at all to find many and various online articles saying that housing affordability in Texas is under increasing pressure, including for people with jobs. So, you are spreading lies here.

      More important, however, is that you are telling Authors what to write on The Standard. You don’t seem to have read this site’s Policy because if you had, you would have known that this is a self-martyrdom offence. Because you’re new here, this is your warning. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

      BTW, many on this site have been raging against housing affordability and homelessness, for example, in Aotearoa-New Zealand. So, your finger-wagging is misplaced.

      Have a nice day, pal.

      • Dal Tarrent 18.1.1

        So the homelessness problem in NZ is better or worse than that in Texas ?

        Do you dispute the numbers on the USICH site ? I mean if you are calling me out for spreading lies does that means the Government run site is doing the same ?

        The only one I can see here High up on some sort of horse is you .

        You really are kind of a symptom generally of the kinds of unpleasant people on the internet who do not argue honestly but prefer to insult , abuse , taunt , belittle rather than just write done counter points . Do you think your approach to argument on the interwebs with an anonymous person you have and are likely never to meet , is a good one – or does it just make you feel good ? – I suspect the latter .

        Looking forward to your next round of insults and abuse .

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