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Editorial: Yes, we must change
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Editorial: Yes, we must change

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Winter Weather Texas Power Failures

Sherry Brown, left, and her daughter, Taylor, rest in recliners at Gallery Furniture store after the owner opened his store as a shelter for those without power Tuesday in Houston.

For the past week, there's been a coordinated and cynical effort to blame renewable fuels for what happened in Texas.

The arctic blast that slammed the Lone Star State wreaked havoc on the state's energy system — and the millions of people who live there. Massive power outages. Threatened water supplies. (We can sympathize with Texans' plight. Think back to the derecho last August, and you get some idea what it was like for them. Except this looks worse than what we experienced; there, people struggled to stay warm, a challenge none of us here would ever want. But, like us, they, too, scrambled to prepare meals, bathe, charge phones and do all the things we were faced with last summer.)

Unfortunately, amid this catastrophe, the ever-unreliable critics of renewable fuels and their media allies saw an opportunity to point the finger at wind turbines that froze in Texas and claim the trend toward more sustainable energy was the real culprit.

Doing anything to move away from fossil fuels, the opportunistic reasoning went, would lead to more of this kind of thing.

It was an "Ah-hah!" moment for the everything-is-fine-don’t-change-a-thing crowd.

Except they were wrong. We know that now.

Early in the week, it became clear that while there were some wind turbines that froze, it was huge demand and unavailability of more traditional energy sources that were the principle cause of outages in Texas.

"The performance of wind and solar is way down the list among the smaller factors in the disaster that we’re facing," Daniel Cohan, associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University, said early in the week, according to Bloomberg News.

We would note that in Iowa, where the state rivals Texas in wind energy, there weren't these kind of outages. And, yes, it was even colder here than it was in Dallas.

Still, that didn't stop the 'do-nothing' crowd. After their false claims were pointed out, they doubled down or shifted gears.

Never mind the reports that Texas power generators failed to adequately weatherize as they were warned they should do after similar cold-weather events in 2011 and earlier. Never mind they apparently weren't forced to do so. But, as one report noted, winterizing "has never been a requirement in Texas like other states."

Never mind that Texas also has a go-it-alone approach to managing its power grid, which many are now pointing to as a contributor to the disaster.

The truth is that, like with most disasters, there are probably a multitude of reasons for the failure.

Which is not what the "do-nothing" crowd would have you believe. It's easier to point to wind turbines. All of the earth's problems are laid at the feet of people who worry about little things like climate change, who are trying to reform the way we generate power in order to limit the damage from these ever-increasing crises.

It’s tough to pin one weather event on global warming, but climate researchers say there is growing evidence the warming planet is playing a role in disrupting the polar vortex that, in normal times, keep these extremely frigid temperatures away from the bulk of the U.S.

These changes are hitting home, too. A CNBC report, citing the research group Climate Central, said extreme weather events led to a 67% increase in major power outages in the U.S. since 2000.

In other words, these aren't the one-offs that others might have you believe. This is a lesson we must learn in the Midwest, too. We have seen our fair share of climate-driven changes, especially with flooding, and we have inadequately prepared for it.

As we wrote two years ago, a report partially funded by the Environmental Defense Fund noted "a range of climate models have predicted that by 2041-2050, there will be a 30 percent increase in the number of two-day precipitation events in the Midwest that set five-year records." And already, we have seen a sharp increase over the last 50 years.

The good thing is most Americans don't agree with the 'do-nothing' approach. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly believe that climate change is real and needs to be addressed. A Pew Research Center survey last year said 65% of Americans believe the government is doing too little to deal with global warming.

We're happy to see the Biden administration is taking this seriously, and we hope for substantive measures. The administration took a step in the right direction Friday by rejoining the Paris climate accord.

We've already wasted too much time. State and local governments need to step up, too.

Unfortunately, this task is made more difficult when there are those who jump on headline-grabbing events to try to sell a story that isn’t true; to try to scare the public from pushing policymakers to meet their expectation that we act on this crisis.

We should not let them do that. Everything is not fine. We do need to change.

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