My thoughts on the TX power outages

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Some data, some reflections. This post taken from my Facebook group, The Systemic Climate Solution.

My thoughts:

1) Science was right. Don’t call them pessimists. What has happened is the kind of thing the climate science community was trying to warn people about way back in 2002, or at least that’s when i first became aware. ONE of the potential downsides to increasing greenhouse emissions every year is extreme weather which causes systemic stress Civilization is not built to handle, such as: shutting down an entire community’s electricity grid (or in this case, nearly an entire state’s) due to extreme weather. Equipment gets too cold, too wet, too hot, or too impaired/damaged in some way by the great almighty weather to function. Nature-based solutions and biospheric climate solutions do the most for restoring mild, temperate weather and protecting us from worsening extremes. More on that another week..

2) Frozen Gas is the smoking gun. Based on this excellent article, here’s a quick breakdown of what failed electricity-wise:

  • 45 billion watts of natural gas electricity
  • 30 billion watts of thermal heat (natural gas, coal & nuke heat)
  • 16 billion watts of renewable electricity (mostly wind)

That’s A LOT of failures, well over 25% of ERCOT’s total available electricity supply became … unavailable. And as it got super-cold, electricity demand went up super fast this week. So they had to shut the grid down. A worst case scenario, hurtful to many people — as well as public works and business. Statewide.

Of the electricity failures:

Wind is about 17% (at most)

Natural Gas is 50% (at least)

Washington Post says Wind was responsible for just 13% of total failures: There ya go.

3a) None of us were prepared. People really didn’t believe this could happen, across the spectrum, in Texas. Let’s first be realistic about that. I’ve lived in Austin most of the last 50 years and it’s never stayed below freezing for 6 days in a row, much less WAY below freezing, for even three days in a row. Nevertheless, we were living in a polar environment Sunday through Weds, in the Austin area. No one was prepared for that.

3B) Integrity, man. C’mon. At the same time, we should blame toxic leadership in energy culture, in Texas government, and everywhere else frankly. These natural gas operators were warned after the freeze of 2011 — I assume the coal, nuke, and wind operators were also aware their equipment could freeze and fail. Here’s what i’ll say. Businesses and governmental leaders tend to know when they’re cutting corners or kicking the can down the road. Now lives have been lost. And money. And homes. And business. If i were political i’d blame Texas’s “democrat governor” Greg Abbot like Donald Jr, did:

4) What about nature? This event proves “how large” and overwhelming radical climate change events are, can be, and will be. Systemic shutdown can be about more than losing a power grid, as more than 12 million Texans without water will attest. This unprecedented freeze lasted 5 days, roughly. I remember in January 2015 unprecedented freezes in the TX Panhandle and NM killed 35,000 dairy cattle. Those deaths didn’t just shutdown 5 of our state’s top 10 dairies, they represented a fraction of the much greater losses of wilderness organisms, other creatures, living outdoors. Most plants will grow back with time, but animals: different story. These stresses no matter how hard they are on you are a lot worse for the birds and the bees and the furries and the predators. And what about the next event? Will it be longer? Colder? Harder to bounce-back from? This is what climate advocates are trying to prevent: “the death of nature” and the collapse of our social infrastructures. It’s also why we need to protect, rebuild, and buffer wild ecosystems first, as fast as we can, now. There’s already too much extreme weather and it’s gaming up. Yet at the same time there are just too many gains that come from prioritizing the wellbeing of nature, aka. our planetary life support system, as society moves forward, chooses and builds the future we collectively want.

5) What’s GOOD about this? If you didn’t get hurt — i think we learned we’re more resilient and flexible than we would’ve thought. My sister’s house got down to 40, for example, and still doesn’t have water since Sunday, but they’re in good spirits. I liked living by candlelight, it makes for a greater appreciation of all things. And i think we have seen YET AGAIN that decent and heroic people rush in to help those in need, wherever they can. If that’s not “me” per se, if i’m not a hero, i am inspired to do more for the greater good re: the challenges we collectively face.

6) Bonus-round: And you think that was cold? It’s -81F on Mars right now. “But, only feels like -15.” I’m staying on the only planet with oxygen and water.



Thanks for reading — hope this was helpful.

I send you my sincerest best wishes in dealing with this crisis.

All comments welcome.

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