Updated: Jan 27, 2022
[Photo credit: FactCheck.org]
February 2021 marked the start of a two-week-long energy crisis in the state of Texas. As a result of severe winter storms, occurring from February 10 to February 20, millions of Texas were left struggling. The crisis caused food, heat, water shortages, and blackouts. Temperatures reached an all-time low of -11 degrees celsius in San Antonio, breaking the previous 1895 record.
The series of winter storms that caused the energy crisis was not directly correlated with global warmings. Experts point to the sudden disruption in the polar vortex. The spike in temperature in the polar vortex caused the cold winds to veer off course. The winds escaped the Arctic and traveled down to the Gulf of Mexico, surpassing the central United States on its way. According to Wood Mackenzie, this abrupt warming occurs about six times a decade. However, rapid gusts of cold air are not always associated.
The disastrous crisis left many Texans wondering the direct cause of the extensive blackouts and power loss. Texas governor, Greg Abbott, was quick to blame the inefficiency of wind and solar power and the cause of the statewide energy failure. Numerous government officials and conservative media cited green energy to be the real issue. They expressed their support for fossil fuels, one of the largest producers of carbon emissions, as a necessity for the Texas power grid. Although roughly seven percent of the power loss can be associated with wind energy, the crisis was mainly caused by gas suppliers.
Gas pipelines and other equipment were greatly impacted by the frozen temperatures. Gas wellheads were not able to withstand the sudden weather change. The frozen power equipment had difficulty functioning and generating enough electricity. This lowered gas supplied, driving up prices greatly. At most, nearly 18.7 billion cubic feet were lost due to the cold and gas that had cost less than three dollars before the crisis had risen to six hundred dollars. Similar results occurred in Kansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
The crisis had proven that the Texas energy system simply wasn’t built to handle such extreme weather. A similar event in 2011 prompted officials to recommend that power plant infrastructure be improved to accommodate sudden temperature changes. However, these additions were costly and were never implemented. Experts and officials are still looking for cost-effective ways to prevent a future crisis. But, this task has proven to be difficult. The transition to renewable energy would be difficult since about five times more wind and solar energy would be needed to replace coal and nuclear power. Energy storage is another potential solution, but advancements in this area are still needed. Preparation is the key to prevent future energy crises.
Crooks, Ed. “The Texas Energy Crisis: Its Causes and Consequences.” Wood Mackenzie, WoodMac.Site.Features.Shared.ViewModels.Metadata.Publisher, 19 Feb. 2021, www.woodmac.com/news/opinion/the-texas-energy-crisis-its-causes-and-consequences/.
Domonoske, Camila. “What Really Caused The Texas Power Shortage?” NPR, NPR, 18 Feb. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/02/18/968921895/what-really-caused-the-texas-power-shortage.
Searcey, Dionne. “No, Wind Farms Aren't the Main Cause of the Texas Blackouts.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Feb. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/climate/texas-blackouts-disinformation.html?auth=login-google.