Like I Was Saying

Cold Weather, Hot Takes

Blaming a perceived enemy (in this case, renewable energy) is easy, even if it’s not based in reality

By Kellyn Brown

A frigid winter storm recently hit Texas, its power grid mostly shut down and, for some reason, two members of Montana’s congressional delegation had some smoking hot takes about it. 

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., whose rhetoric has ratcheted up recently, went to Twitter to share his thoughts on green energy and a photo (since removed) of a wind turbine being de-iced in Sweden.

“This is a perfect example of the need for reliable energy sources like natural gas & coal,” Daines wrote.

In other words, the Green New Deal, which (at least in the short term) doesn’t have a chance of passing since President Joe Biden doesn’t support it, would make everything worse. And that’s apparently important to know while millions of Texans lost their power and water. 

When asked about his statements, Daines’ spokesperson told the Montana Free Press that “radical, knee-jerk energy policies like the Green New Deal which eliminate fossil fuels and focuses on a limited portfolio” would have made matters worse in Texas. 

Maybe. The thing is, there is no Green New Deal in place and Texas doesn’t have a limited portfolio. It has a diversified one that, yes, includes wind, but also natural gas, coal and even some nuclear power. And all of them, to some degree, failed in freezing temperatures that plunged much of the Lone Star State into darkness. 

To be clear, Daines’ take wasn’t unique. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott initially provided a similar assessment during a friendly interview on cable news. However, he later acknowledged that natural gas was a major culprit in the outages.

Dan Woodfin, a senior director at Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s electric grid, said as much during a press call amid the storm: “It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system.”

Yes, some wind turbines froze. But the weather also knocked out operations that produced energy from fossil fuels. Why? Because Texas politicians didn’t want to spend money on winterizing its grid and that same grid is largely isolated from the rest of the country.  

These are real problems in need of real solutions, but many elected officials who are in the position to solve them would rather spend their time scoring political points. Instead of providing ideas that may fix things, they place blame because that’s easier. 

During Texas’ blackout, our state was also frozen solid and on Feb. 16 a few hundred people lost power. Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., was quick to say this demonstrated “the dangerous consequences of transitioning away from reliable fossil fuel-based power sources” and added that it was “obscene that Montana ratepayers are being forced to ration electricity in subzero temperatures a month into the Biden administration.”

NBC News could only confirm 900 people in Jordan and Circle who lost power that day for 30 minutes. Thirty minutes. That might seem like a small outage. Because it is. 

At least Rosendale was talking about Montana and not simply dropping out-of-state hot takes. But he was also doing the easiest thing a politician can do: placing blame. Blaming a perceived enemy (in this case, renewable energy) is easy, even if it’s not based in reality.

Finding solutions (in this case, making sure an isolated and diverse power grid can survive a severe winter storm) is difficult. 

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.