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Imagine Texas Without Fossil Fuels

February 17, 2021

By Paul Homewood

 

  Alex Epstein neatly sums everything that is wrong about Texas’ energy policy:

 

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44 Comments
  1. Phillip Bratby permalink
    February 17, 2021 6:56 pm

    What a pathetically small amount of wind power when demand increases by 50%. Gas coal and nuclear saved the day (for most). Somebody had better tell Boris that Texas isn’t competing to be the Saudi Arabia of wind power.

  2. Francis permalink
    February 17, 2021 7:07 pm

    Excerpt from the NYT: https://nypost.com/2021/02/17/texas-power-outages-fault-of-unique-supply-not-green-energy/

    “Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, also dismissed the move to blame green energy.

    “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 AP.”

    At no point does the article explain how natural gas, coal, and nuclear sources of electricity are causing blackouts. There is comment in the article that the Texas power grid has not been “winterized” which may actually mean that the problem does not reside with the source of supply but with physical issues with parts of the grid in adverse weather.

    There is also criticism that Texas is not connected to grids in neighbouring states but if the Texas grid is the source of the problems interconnections wouldn’t be of much if any help.

    • Francis permalink
      February 17, 2021 7:08 pm

      Sorry, should refer to a New York Post article, not NYT.

      • Dan permalink
        February 18, 2021 1:28 pm

        A point missing from many comments on this topic on the media, is that wind and solar were unavailable. That means they had, essentially already failed.

        Given that these can make maybe 20% (or more) of the electricity supply, is it not unsurprising that when 20% of the grid isn’t there and you stress it, the grid falls over?

        Why are people only pointing to the coal, gas and nuclear failures while ignoring the other failures? Both sides of the argument are failing to frame it in this way.

    • February 17, 2021 10:00 pm

      It is connected to neighbouring grids and was importing
      Local TV tweeted this

    • Matt Dalby permalink
      February 18, 2021 12:24 am

      One of the main reasons for the drop in wind generation in Texas is the fact that 50% of the turbines have frozen solid due to high humidity combined with the low temperatures (reported by CNN on Monday). This is just another reason why it is foolhardy to rely on renewables.
      Very few mainstream news outlets want to report the true reasons for the power shortages. I’ve just watched the BBC’s world news (9p.m. on news 24). They spent the first 15 minutes on the Texas power cuts, a lot of it given over to an “expert” who blamed deregulation for the problems. Needless to say his attacks on the free market weren’t challenged by the p.c. Beeb presenters. It was only after 10 minutes that wind power was even mentioned, at which point said “expert” blamed deregulation for not forcing power companies to ensure turbines are weatherproof. I switched of after it was announced that later in the program they would be asking if climate change was causing extreme cold, my blood pressure can only stand so much bullshit.
      Not often reported in the MSM is the fact that the cold spell in North America (Canada suffered first before the cold moved into the U.S.) is truly recorded breaking. Numerous places have recorded their lowest ever temperatures in data sets often going back to the 1880’s. http://www.electroverse.net provides good coverage of facts like this that the MSM tends to ignore. They also talk about the likely cause being low solar activity causing the jet stream to buckle and leading to arctic air pushing unusually far south (or north in the Southern hemisphere). If this theory is correct, and to me it makes far more sense than blaming everything on CO2 as it explains past changes in climate including the warming that happened in the 20th centuary when solar activity increased, then it is likely that we are going to see at least 30 years of global cooling and increased frequency of severe cold as the sun enters a grand solar minimum. Yesterday Climate Reanalyzer from the university of Maine reported that the global temperature anomaly (using 1979-2000 as the reference period) was exactly 0 degrees, down at least 1 degree from 2015/16. Obviously it would be wrong to pay too much attention to very short periods of time, but if temperatures stay at this level or keep falling for the next year or more then this would be evidence to support the idea that natural factors are the main driver of climate.

      • dave permalink
        February 18, 2021 9:52 am

        “…deregulation…”

        Oh, for a proper regulator – with the guts to lean against any and all use of green crap.

        In the USA, regulators in all fields used to discourage reckless behaviour in their wards with the application of “hair cuts.” For example, if a bank placed its assets in low-grade bonds these would not count at full value when judging the financial stability of that bank.

        Often a succession of haircuts was applied to the same thing.

        So, a wind-turbine-field rated at !00 MW maximum would have say a 50% haircut for the fact that over a year it will not perform at that output, and a FURTHER 50% haircut for the fact that the non-performance might occur at a difficult time for the grid. The wind would then be rated at 25 MW for the grid while a modern 100 MW coal station would be rated without any haircut being applied, i.e. at 100 MW.

        If the power company did not maintain a sufficient total reserve, under all haircuts, it would be mercilessly fined. Simples!

        In the modern Western world, simple, robust, masculine logic has almost disappeared – or has been side-lined, at least.

  3. February 17, 2021 7:14 pm

    I guess that their main concern, like South Australia, is summer, when aircon use is high. I wonder how many fossil fuel stations are down for routine maintenance during the normally low demand winter period.

    At least EV usage is probably very low, given the long distances involved in going anywhere in Texas.

  4. Jackington permalink
    February 17, 2021 8:05 pm

    So, it was natural gas, coal and nuclear that caused the windmills to freeze up -interesting and a warning to the rest of the world.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      February 17, 2021 8:47 pm

      A number of gas and oil fields in Texas rely on electricity for their pumps, and guess where that is supposed to come from. So very cold weather causes demand to skyrocket but also causes lots of supply for heating to drop. The problem is made far worse by the gullible opposing new pipelines but blame the results on the reliable generators they handicapped.

      Texas should look south to Mexico which has decided ‘no more unreliable generation’.

      • Matt Dalby permalink
        February 18, 2021 12:43 am

        It’s not just the oil fields that rely on electricity. It was reported yesterday that the world’s largest refinery has had to stop production due to the blackouts, helping to push fuel prices even higher. No doubt this will be seen as good news by the eco-facists who don’t care if the rest of us can’t afford to keep warm or struggle to afford the fuel needed to get to work. They will probably even claim that it’s another reason to switch from using fossil fuels to electricity for heating and transport. The fact that if there’s not enough electricity to produce oil and gas then there’s not going to be enough to replace it is unlikely to concern them. Common sense and logic were never their strong points.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        February 18, 2021 7:01 pm

        I think that refinery outages are partly motivated by lower crude oil production. Plus some plants will have had weather related issues of their own: not everything in a refinery is hot and steamy.

  5. JimW permalink
    February 17, 2021 9:27 pm

    Everthing about relying on wind/solar is true of course.
    But ERCOT is a terrible system, always has been. Its more or less an island system but has never invested in enough reserves. And the very cold weather has caused problems at well-heads for NG which has resulted in gas power shortages not only in ERCOT but throughout the S.Western Pool system.
    Its completely nuts of the ‘green’ idiots to blame fossil/nuclear generation, they are the only one’s working, but unfortunately its not just ‘renewables’ that are to blame.

    • Curious George permalink
      February 17, 2021 9:42 pm

      When supply by wind turbines goes from 20GW to 1GW, clearly it is a duty of fossil/nuclear generators to make up for it. The wind did not fail, everybody else did 🙂

      • Robert Christopher permalink
        February 18, 2021 6:45 am

        Succinctly put. It is just another theme along the lines of ‘Levelized Cost of Energy’. It hides the truth.

        When we have an (electrical) power cut, although the gas boiler stops working (because it is controlled electrically), we still have a gas fire. Many also have a gas cooker. (And both will be made redundant because if the NET Zero Emissions policy. 🙂 )
        Hi
        It is the reliance on only one form of energy delivery, Electricity, which is vunerable to the Elements, and is much more complicated and expensive to deliver than gas heating, that has made the situation so much worse.

        This has been brought about by forcing an industry to be distracted by irrelevant concerns, CO2 and Climate Change. The same is true with that foreign entity, the European Union. The focus is not on the public getting the best value from the taxes paid. The focus is on ‘Ever Closer Union’, a political goal that does not benefit the customers.

  6. Brian Smith permalink
    February 17, 2021 9:37 pm

    Need the truth here. James O’Brien on LBC is adamant that the reason Texas has suffered power outages is because the State government detached Texas from the US national grid. (Because, he says, they considered it “socialist”.”

    Is this the case or not would appear to be the $64 question.

    • Duker permalink
      February 17, 2021 10:11 pm

      Partly true but not because of socialism- the energy companies are private ownership in Texas like most of US. The US is a series of regional ‘grids’ anyway. In the early days of electrification Texas decided not top join one of the surrounding regions ( Some parts of Texas in North and East belong to the regional grid.)

      However its important to remember that ERCOT in Texas doesnt own anything, not power stations nor powerlines, its just a ‘manager or referee’ to ensure reliability and payments
      ‘As the ISO for the region, ERCOT dispatches power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and more than 550 generation units ERCOT also performs financial settlements for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers retail switching for 7 million premises in competitive choice areas”- Wikipedia

      There are some advantages to being only in Texas and not have federal oversight, but there are interconnectors to neighbouring grids to send or take power just like UK does with its neighbors.

      As many have said the so called ‘free energy’ from wind is too unreliable, the peak wind power supplied was almost 20GW about 2 yrs ago, yet currently they are lucky to get 4-6GW. Now fossil fuel stations arent always available either, but not to that extent, and some of the fossil fuel outages are for planned maintenance ( summer is the peak period) when the max grid capacity of 70GW can be reached. Wind farms being individual generators maintenance is supposed to be both less often and doesnt need the whole farm offline.

  7. February 17, 2021 9:55 pm

    Norway is trending, cos the Greta PR team have tweeted that Norway, UK, Canada are bad guys.

    Have they tweeted against China/Russia ? nope

  8. February 18, 2021 12:04 am

    The whole green anti greenhouse gas endeavours is meaningless except for its folly.
    Near incredible…

  9. It doesn't add up... permalink
    February 18, 2021 1:00 am

    Texas now has a reduced supply of fossil fuels. Natural gas production had been running at 24bcf/day (about 680mcm/day, or 7.5TWh/day), and dropped to 12-17bcf/day. Oil production fell by at least 1mb/d. Most of the refineries have shut down, and restarts will take several days. The result has been a shortage of supply for power stations, which have had to shut down.

    Why is gas production down? Freeze-offs, where hydrates and water form ices in pipelines and valves. Unless you have this sort of thing installed:

    https://www.graco.com/us/en/in-plant-manufacturing/solutions/articles/preventing-or-reducing-pipeline-freezing-with-chemical-injection.html

    Quite a good article on these problems here, including spectacular images of icicle covered plant:

    https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/17/22287130/texas-natural-gas-production-power-outages-frozen

    Other problems have come from lack of water supply, again through freezing, and also through lack of power for pumping. That is now leading to burst pipes as the thaw begins, and will limit supplies and maybe keep some plant offline for lack of cooling water and water for steam.

    The systems in Texas are engineered to deal with 120F in summer, not -15C, ice storms and blizzards in winter.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      February 18, 2021 12:16 pm

      The same logic is used in the UK for road gritters and snow ploughs. We get severe winters with heavy snowfall once in 15 years, and when we do it’s only for days. So a big investment in snow clearing equipment and salt/grit is a waste of money.

  10. Harry Davidson permalink
    February 18, 2021 1:42 am

    The BBC has investigated, and you will be astonished to hear that they have decided that the reason for the power cuts was the failure of fossil fuel generating systems during the cold weather.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-56085733
    What a surprise.

    • February 18, 2021 9:58 am

      The BBC hasn’t understood the issues then. In West Texas many of the oil and gas producers use wind-generated electricity to run their pumps, so no wind power = no pumping. As little gas is stored, supplies can then soon run out.

      The systems that get gas from the earth aren’t properly built for cold weather. Operators in West Texas’ Permian Basin, one of the most productive oil fields in the world, are particularly struggling to bring natural gas to the surface, analysts said, as cold weather and snow close wells or cause power outages that prevent pumping the fossil fuels from the ground.

      “Gathering lines freeze, and the wells get so cold that they can’t produce,” said Parker Fawcett, a natural gas analyst for S&P Global Platts. “And pumps use electricity, so they’re not even able to lift that gas and liquid, because there’s no power to produce.”

      https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/natural-gas-power-storm/

  11. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    February 18, 2021 3:31 am

    “. . . that the Texas power grid has not been “winterized” which may actually mean that the problem does not reside with the source of supply but with physical issues with parts of the grid in adverse weather.”

    BINGO!

    A long cold spell in Texas, such as this one, is a rare event — so “winterizing” anything seems costly, until it becomes apparent that such was needed.

    The saddest thing is that may people have no “survival supplies.” Very little food, no water, battery powered lights, nor a source of heat. A report had a family burning the baby’s crib and wood play blocks. Such behavior indicates a lack of responsibility. A 3 day supply of everything is a minimal stash; a week – better; 3 weeks – moving into the safe realm.

    I should mention, we live where winter cold and summer heat are common.
    [ -15 C° , about 5°F in January, 2021 ]

  12. February 18, 2021 4:09 am

    Hey, come on. How were they to know something like this could happen? It’s not like they could have anticipated this much winter in TX.I mean, it NEVER happens.

    Well, hardly ever… //s//

    • February 18, 2021 4:20 am

      Good grief. Have a couple of beers and can’t get the correct link in.

      (I don’t agree with that video, but was watching it prior to thinking I’d copied the one I wanted to post. Sorry about that. (If Paul wants to delete it because it’s off-road, I’m fine with that)

      My post SHOULD have been…

      Hey, come on. How were they to know something like this could happen? It’s not like they could have anticipated this much winter in TX.I mean, it NEVER happens.

      Well, hardly ever… //s//
      =============================
      https://www.weather.gov/ilx/dec1989-cold</blockquote

  13. Harry Passfield permalink
    February 18, 2021 10:02 am

    Paul, this is not that far off topic: a letter in today’s DT – which would take too much space to comment on:

    How stamp duty can serve a greener purpose
    SIR – Amid rumours that the Budget could include changes to the tax system, I would like to point the Chancellor towards our campaign to introduce a differential that ties stamp duty to the energy efficiency of homes.

    British homes are the least energy-efficient in Europe, and in 2019 they pumped out 19 per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions. If we had a sliding scale of stamp duty – capped at £25,000, with the most energy-efficient homes accruing significantly less tax – buyers might think twice about energy efficiency.

    A time-limited rebate period would also encourage buyers to undertake improvements post-sale, such as insulating lofts and walls, fitting double or triple glazing, and choosing smarter heating systems. More than a million homes were sold between 2017 and 2018. Consider the emissions saved if these had been retrofitted.

    I urge the Treasury to consider this measure as part of urgent action to decarbonise Britain’s shameful housing stock and meet the commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

    Professor Alan M Jones
    President, Royal Institute of British Architects
    London W1

    • dave permalink
      February 18, 2021 11:29 am

      Royal Institute of British Architects, eh?

      Another one to go on the list of once venerable British institutions that have been taken over by full-on crazies. It has been clear for some time that most of them are threatened in this way.

      I hope that our ‘shameful housing stock’ is put on the naughty step immediately.

      Incidentally, if the houses are shameful isn’t that the fault of the architectural profession? *
      I suppose that is what he does mean. He is a barbarian stabling his horse in the bathroom of a palace.

      * A little like in the Alan Aykbourne comedy about a dysfunctional family running a
      dysfunctional firm of developers. One of them says mournfully, “Our houses are
      condemned by the Council before they are put up!”

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 18, 2021 11:58 am

      Who is going to pay £25,000 in duty on a rural farm worker’s cottage worth £100,000?

      Places will go unsold.

    • Penda100 permalink
      February 18, 2021 1:36 pm

      The utter insanity has no end.

    • Joe Public permalink
      February 18, 2021 2:22 pm

      Perhaps more of our housing stock should have been destroyed during WW2 so that it could have been rebuilt to standards better than Victorian & early 20thC standards.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        February 18, 2021 3:53 pm

        If you could see some of the houses built after the Coventry blitz I think you’d have second thoughts, Joe. 🙂

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        February 18, 2021 6:54 pm

        Indeed – late 40s housing suffered from shortages of building materials, so tend to be built on the cheap. Fortunately it also meant that no too many were built.

      • February 18, 2021 9:45 pm

        It also had to be built very quickly. Where I grew up in the 1950s we were just round the corner from loads of pre-fabs

      • dave permalink
        February 19, 2021 8:21 am

        I remember a large area of pre-fabs, in Cricklewood, even in the late 1950s. I always thought they looked quite nice. The people who lived there were obviously very house-proud, as each had a tiny, blooming, garden.
        Many were foreign refugees, known as displaced persons – D.P.s.

  14. It doesn't add up... permalink
    February 18, 2021 11:53 am

    Some more specialised oil and gas reporting

    https://www.argusmedia.com/en/news/2188000-us-crude-output-down-sharply-on-storm

    Lots of pipelines out of action. They need to be back before production can recommence.

    Of course snow has made roads impassable but I suspect that during the cold diesel trucks and cars will have had problems with fuel waxing. The fuel is not normally produced with such winter temperatures in view for local consumption, even if refineries are shipping winter spec fuels to the North East by coaster and the Colonial pipeline.

    • Gamecock permalink
      February 18, 2021 10:57 pm

      Since I am absolutely dependent on the Colonial pipeline, I took my cars out today and topped off the petrol tanks.

      Though 4 days into the Texas outage, if we were going to have a shortage, it should have happened already.

      The southeast’s dependence on the Colonial pipeline is a scandal waiting to happen. I have long argued that there should be a refinery in Charleston or Savannah, to reduce the dependence on Gulf Coast refineries. Government insures it won’t happen.

  15. Penda100 permalink
    February 18, 2021 4:39 pm

    As reported in the Washington Post “We tend to think of climate change in terms of warmer weather, rather than the winter storms seen this week. But the science is more complex than that: As Tom Niziol wrote for the Capital Weather Gang, some research suggests that melting sea ice in the Arctic could be responsible for the disrupted weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.”

    Pesky thing those CO2 molecules, hot, cold, drought, floods, fires (and probably Santa Claus) all down to those pesky molecules.

    • Gamecock permalink
      February 18, 2021 10:51 pm

      “But the science is more complex than that”

      “Science” as totalist language. Once someone invokes “SCIENCE!,” you are supposed to shut up.

  16. MikeHig permalink
    February 18, 2021 5:17 pm

    This quote sums it up, imho:
    “The main difference is that in Texas we pay a lot less for incompetence than California does” (h/t tomo at Bishop Hill).

    It’s my impression that the situation would have been no better, possibly even worse, if Texas had zero windpower. If they had built more gas plants instead of wind farms, the shortages and distribution problems with gas would have closed much of that capacity as well.
    Their grid relies heavily on gas power plants but they have no gas storage, afaik.
    It appears that gas distribution does not have back up power for its electric compressors, controls, etc..
    Generally the power plants are not winterised: a frozen water pump took out one of the 4 nuclear reactors.

    Apparently this has happened before but not as seriously. No lessons were learned.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 18, 2021 6:58 pm

      Gas compressors used to run off gas in Texas (and they certainly do in Russia). Heat available to warm some lagging around valves etc. is a byproduct. Electrification has come in over the past 30 years or so. Perhaps not such an advantage.

    • dave permalink
      February 19, 2021 8:53 am

      We KNOW that, for at least the next ten years, whatever happens, anywhere in the World, will be blamed by all the morons on ‘melting ice in the Arctic’ or something equally idiotic.

      I really believe that most people do not even know that the sea-ice in both hemispheres melts every summer, until there is hardly any left. And, incidentally, that the lowest summer extent in the Arctic was in 2012! This fact is airbrushed out of most sources. The Japanese Space Agency still shows it however in their Ice Tracker product.

      As for the attribution of events, the investigators of air-accidents have the right approach. They generally come to a narrative conclusion, showing an unlucky, complicated, combination of minor factors. BUT there is generally a CRITICAL mistake, a BAD CALL, made by some decision maker, long before the accident. Think of the O-rings on the shuttles!

      In the case of the Western world, of course, one of the worst decisions was to blindly believe that left-wing, academic, “scientists” can be trusted to tell us how to live our lives.

  17. February 20, 2021 10:49 pm

    The judithCurry blog points out the Texas market is wrongly constructed
    Fossil fuel plants do NOT have an incentive to do the right thing
    rather if the grid is in crisis they earn massive prop up payment.

    Consider, what would be happening if the owners of gas generation had built sufficient generation to get through this emergency with some excess power?
    Instead of collecting $9,000 per MWH from existing functioning units, they would be receiving less than $100 per MWH for the output of those plants and their new plants.
    Why would anyone make tremendous infrastructure that would sit idle in normal years and serve to slash your revenue by orders of magnitudes in extreme conditions?

    https://judithcurry.com/2021/02/18/assigning-blame-for-the-blackouts-in-texas/

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