There is a great deal of nonsense being written and spoken about this week's power failures in Texas, which left a number of people dead and millions without power or potable water, sometimes for days.
Among the more prominent nonsense peddlers was the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, who blamed the mess on wind power and other renewable fuels, while warning that proposals like the Green New Deal — which would zero out fossil fuels — would more or less be the end of civilization as we know it. There was also Rick Perry, the state's former governor, who seemed to suggest that using more renewables would lead to socialism, and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who blamed the whole thing on that liberal bastion otherwise known as California. "Bottom line," Crenshaw wrote on Twitter, "Texas's biggest mistake was learning too many renewable energy lessons from California."
These statements were catnip to progressives, who mainly blamed the state's libertarian energy system, which, they claimed, sought to keep prices low at the expense of safety.
None of the poppycock from Texas politicians is of any help to the scores of Texans who spent long hours and days freezing in their homes. It has also obscured the real reasons for the disaster and diverted attention from an important lesson: that the nation's energy delivery system, not just in Texas but everywhere, needs a radical overhaul if it is to withstand future shocks and play the role that President Joe Biden has assigned it in the battle against climate change.
There are two lessons here to be absorbed and acted on. First, the country's energy systems must be robust enough to withstand whatever surprises climate change is likely to bring. There is little doubt that a warming climate turned California's forests into tinderboxes, leading to last summer's frightening wildfires. The scientific connection between climate change and extreme cold is not as well established, but it would be foolish to assume that it is not there. (The dominant hypothesis is that global warming has weakened the air currents that keep the polar vortex and its freezing winds in check.) As the Princeton energy expert Jesse Jenkins observed recently in the Times, we know that climate change increases the frequency of extreme heat waves, droughts, wildfires, heavy rains and coastal flooding. We also know the damage these events can cause. To this list we should now add deep freezes.
If building resilience is one imperative, another is making sure that America's power systems, the grid in particular, are reconfigured to do the ambitious job Biden has in mind for them — to not just survive the effects of climate change but to lead the fight against it.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE NEW YORK TIMES