Billionaire Bill Gates has said that Texas Governor Greg Abbott was ‘actually wrong’ to initially blame the state’s catastrophic blackouts on wind turbines that froze in a historic winter storm.
On Thursday morning, the power cuts in Texas fell below one million for the first time in four days, but many people remained without electricity or safe drinking water.
It came after the deep freeze knocked out roughly a third of the state’s electricity generating capacity, with poorly winterized wind, natural gas, coal and even nuclear plants forced offline, officials with the state’s grid operator said.
In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday, Hannity asked the governor: ‘I’m not against nuclear energy either. I’m not against wind turbines, but my question is, if they have these rolling blackouts and you got freezing weather, and they’re not reliable, and it’s use it or lose it, what good is it?’
‘This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. Texas is blessed with multiple sources of energy, such as natural gas and oil and nuclear,’ Abbott responded. ‘Our wind and our solar, they got shut down and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid.’
Billionaire Bill Gates has said that Texas Governor Greg Abbott was ‘actually wrong’ to initially blame the state’s catastrophic blackouts on wind turbines that froze
‘Our wind and our solar, they got shut down and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid,’ Abbott said in an interview on Wednesday
Abbott had previously acknowledge that natural gas was affected in the deep freeze, and pressed on his remarks to Hannity at a press conference he said: ‘I was asked a question on one TV show about renewable, and I responded to that question.’
Gates, in an interview with Yahoo Finance to promote his new book about climate change, slammed Abbott, saying: ‘He’s actually wrong.’
‘Actually, the main capacity that’s gone out in Texas is not the wind, it’s actually some of the natural gas plants that were also not ready for the super cold temperatures,’ Gates said.
Wind shutdowns accounted for less than 13 percent of the 30 to 35 gigawatts of total outages, said Dan Woodfin, a senior director at the state’s grid operator.
‘You can make sure wind turbines can deal with the cold,’ added Gates. ‘[The extreme cold] probably wasn’t anticipated for the wind turbines that far South. But the ones up in Iowa and North Dakota do have the ability to not freeze up.’
Gates said that man-made climate change causes extreme weather patterns like the winter storm in Texas to ‘become more likely.’
‘Because the normal wind patterns are broken down and so cold fronts can go further south more often than we would expect,’ he said.
‘The extreme events are coming more often and with more force — including hurricanes — than before we started warming the earth,’ said Gates.
An Austin resident gathers firewood to heat his home during power outages in Texas
Dallas residents use their car to heat their home. The couple, who lost power on Sunday, have been using electricity from a neighbor’s generator and heat from their car to stay warm
Texas relies heavily on natural gas, responsible for nearly half the electricity generated in the state, which alone among the contiguous states has its own power grid and does not interconnect with neighbors to share capacity.
Poor winter infrastructure in Texas has brought the natural gas system grinding to a halt, with drilling fluid freezing in gas pipes, frozen wellheads unable to produce, and diesel-fueled pumps refusing to start.
Even coal plants went offline as coal piles were frozen to the ground, and one of the two reactors of the South Texas Nuclear Power Station had to be shut down after the cooling pumps froze.
While similar facilities in the Northern states are equipped to handle extended temperatures below freezing, Texas, which hasn’t experienced a similar cold snap in a decade, simply didn’t have the infrastructure in place to weather the storm.
In Texas, about 560,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity Thursday morning, down from about 3 million the day before. But Texas’ grid manager, under fire for its response to the winter storm, has warned that the outages could fluctuate during hours of peak energy demand.
Adding to the misery, the snowy weather has jeopardized drinking water systems throughout the state.
Seven million Texans are under boil water notices after the storm compromised systems – a problem exacerbated by the lack of power in many homes. Many are melting snow for water
Snow and ice grips a neighborhood in East Austin on Tuesday. About 560,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity Thursday morning
Texas officials ordered 7 million people – a quarter of the population of the nation´s second-largest state – to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.
In Austin, some hospitals faced a loss in water pressure and in some cases, heat.
‘Because this is a state-wide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,’ St. David’s South Austin Medical Center CEO David Huffstutler said in a statement.
Water pressure has fallen across the state because lines have frozen, and many residents are leaving faucets dripping in hopes of preventing pipes from freezing, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Governor Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more busted pipes and preserve pressure in municipal systems.
Governor Abbott orders ban on natural gas exports to boost struggling power plants, drawing fury from Mexico
Texas oil producers and refiners remained shut for a fifth day on Wednesday after several days of blistering cold, and the governor ordered a ban on natural gas exports from the state to try to speed the restoration of power.
The cold snap, which has killed at least 21 people and knocked out power to more than 4 million people in Texas, is not expected to let up until this weekend.
Governor Greg Abbott directed Texas natural gas providers not to ship outside the state until Sunday and asked the state energy regulator to enforce his export ban.
‘That will also increase the power that´s going to be produced and sent to homes here in Texas,’ Abbott said at a news conference Wednesday.
The ban prompted a response from officials in Mexico, which relies on imports via pipeline from Texas. More than 40 percent of U.S. natural gas exports come from Texas.
A woman and her daughter are seen next to a bonfire to warm up during a cold front in El Ranchito neighborhood in Guadalupe, on the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico
Burning charcoals are pictured as an employee prepares food on a grill outside a restaurant due to the lack of natural gas during a cold front in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Texas produces more natural gas and oil than any other U.S. state, and its operators, unlike those in North Dakota or Alaska, are not used to dealing with frigid temperatures.
The state accounts for roughly one-quarter of U.S. natural gas production, about 27.8 billion cubic feet per day, but it consumes only part of that, shipping the rest to other states or via pipeline to Mexico, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Texas’ energy sector has been hit hard by the cold, with about 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of daily refining capacity shuttered and at least 1 million bpd of oil production out as well.
Natural gas output also slumped. At this time a week ago, Texas was producing about 7.9 billion cubic feet per day, but that fell to 1.9 billion on Wednesday, according to preliminary data from Refinitiv Eikon. Natural gas accounts for half of Texas’ power generation.
Christi Craddick, chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, said late Wednesday the agency had received the governor’s request and was reviewing it.
A sign warns customers of a Shell gas station shut down by lack of electric power in Pflugerville, Texas on Tuesday
The request set up a game of political football, according to a person familiar with the matter, between groups that do not have the authority to interfere with interstate commerce.
U.S. gas pipeline exports to Mexico dropped to 3.8 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day on Wednesday, down from an average over the past 30 days of 5.7 bcf, according to data from Refinitiv, about three-quarters of which comes from Texas.
Mexico’s economy minister, Tatiana Clouthier, said Wednesday she had contacted the U.S. government’s representative in Mexico, seeking to guarantee supplies of natural gas for Mexico during the cold snap.
‘By not acting together, the results could be more complicated,’ she said on Twitter.
One cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) loaded at Freeport LNG in Texas on Wednesday had been slated to sail to Mexico, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. The tanker remained off the coast of Texas. A Freeport LNG spokeswoman declined to comment.
Operations at Cheniere Energy’s Corpus Christi plant, the state’s largest LNG producer, were halted by weather disruptions this week. A spokesman declined to comment on the governor’s order.
Overall, daily U.S. natural gas production is down by roughly 19% from the end of last week to 71.9 bcf per day on Wednesday, according to preliminary Eikon data.
With more snow expected in key oil-and-gas production areas like the Permian and northern Louisiana, production is expected to stay offline through Friday, said Anna Lenzmeier, energy analyst at BTU Analytics.
Jose’ Nives tries to shovel his way out after getting stuck in the middle of the street on Wednesday in Austin, Texas
‘The second half of this week is shaping up to be just as tumultuous as the long weekend, and natural gas prices could continue to top triple digits before the weekend,’ she said.
Several Texas ports, including Houston, Galveston and key LNG exporting sites at Freeport and Sabine Pass were closed due to weather, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jonathan Lally.
One bcf of gas can supply about 5 million U.S. homes per day.
Producers in the Permian Basin, the largest U.S. oilfield, said electrical outages were the main issue, and that until power was restored, restarting any frozen equipment would be challenging.
Roughly 1 million bpd of crude production has been halted, according to Wood Mackenzie analysts, and it could be weeks before it is fully restored.
The supply disruptions drove further increases in oil prices, which ended the session up more than 1.5%. U.S. natural gas climbed to a more than three-month high after rising more than 10% on Tuesday.
The freeze has also sent Canadian natural gas exports to the United States soaring to levels last seen in 2010, said IHS Markit analyst Ian Archer.
Net Canadian exports have jumped above 7.5 bcf a day for the last couple of days and Archer estimated they were close to 8 bcf per day on Wednesday.
‘We are seeing just absolutely huge withdrawals and exports to the U.S.,’ Archer said.