- Some Republicans have blamed the Green New Deal climate proposal for power outages currently plaguing millions of Texans amid record-setting low temperatures.
- Their statements are factually inaccurate since the Green New Deal does not exist as an active policy anywhere in the United States.
- While wind turbines in the state have frozen to a standstill, critics have argued this is because Texas did not adequately prepare its renewable energy sources for extreme temperatures.
- Texas predominantly relies on nonrenewable energy like natural gas, which critics also say failed because of the state’s lack of preparedness for such temperatures.
Wind Turbines Blamed for Power Outages
About 3.3 million Texans were out of power Wednesday morning as they continue to grapple with intense winter temperatures. Some have been without power for days on end, prompting widespread questions about who exactly is to blame.
While the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is receiving the brunt of the blame, criticism has also been lodged against renewable energy sources by a number of fossil fuel groups and Republicans.
In a lengthy Twitter thread on Tuesday, U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-Tx.) said, “West Texas, where most of the wind energy is focused, had wind turbines that had to be de-iced. The little energy that power regulators planned on wind to supply was now gone.”
“This is what happens when you force the grid to rely in part on wind as a power source. When weather conditions get bad as they did this week, intermittent renewable energy like wind isn’t there when you need it.”
It is true that a number of wind turbines in the state have frozen amid record-setting low temperatures; however, that is largely because the state never designed those turbines to be able to withstand such extreme temperatures. Northern countries like that of Greenland, for example, are able to keep their turbines spinning throughout the winter months because they have mechanisms in place to account for the cold.
Republicans Blame a Nonexistent Green New Deal
Related to frozen turbines, many Republicans, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, have used the situation in the state to lay blame on the Green New Deal climate proposal — even though it doesn’t actually exist as policy anywhere in the United States.
“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Abbott said Tuesday to Fox News host Sean Hannity. “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power in a statewide basis… It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson also said, “Unbeknownst to most people, the Green New Deal came to Texas. The power grid in the state became totally reliant on windmills. Then it got cold and the windmills broke cause that’s what happens in the Green New Deal.”
In reality, power in the state is dominated by natural gas, a form of nonrenewable energy. According to The Washington Post, “shutdowns of thermal power plants, primarily those relying on natural gas, dwarfed the dent caused by frozen wind turbines, by a factor of five or six.”
As The Post explained, amid single-digit temperatures, pipes froze because of moisture in the gas.
Rather than a problem caused primarily by renewable energy, the situation in Texas seems to be a result of the state’s lack of preparedness.
For example, Texas usually only has mild winters. There’s also a heavy lack of state regulations around Texas’ energy sources, as ERCOT is Texas’ independent power grid. As a result of being completely internal to Texas, the state is able to avoid oversight by federal regulators.
While many have used the word “unprecedented” to describe the storm battering Texas, the state has faced multiple outages because of snowstorms in the last two decades.
In fact, following another severe cold in 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. found that “the massive amount of generator failures that were experienced raises the question whether it would have been helpful to increase reserve levels going into the event.”
“This action would have brought more units online earlier, might have prevented some of the freezing problems the generators experienced, and could have exposed operational problems in time to implement corrections before the units were needed to meet customer demand.”
Democrats Denounce Green New Deal Criticism
Following Abbott’s comments concerning the Green New Deal, Texas Democrats rebuked his words in a joint statement.
“If we had a governor open to alternative sources of energy,” the party said, “Texas might be in a situation in which we have energy reserves to efficiently power our state, instead of the reckless leadership we have witnessed time and time again from Greg Abbott.”
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY.), who has sponsored the climate proposal, argued that “the infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you *don’t* pursue a Green New Deal.”
“Weak on sweeping next-gen public infrastructure investments, little focus on equity so communities are left behind, climate deniers in leadership so they don’t long prep for disaster. We need to help people *now.* Long-term we must realize these are the consequences of inaction.”
Nonetheless, false rumors related to renewable energy and the Green New Deal have continued to circulate online. For example, one photo of a helicopter reportedly spraying chemicals on a turbine in Texas has gone viral; however, that photo was actually was taken years ago in Sweden and the helicopter in it is spraying hot water.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Business Insider) (Dallas News)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.