Did Joe Biden block Texas from increasing power capacity before storm? Experts call far-right claims 'false'

Conservative and far-right sites claimed the federal administration used environmental regulations to stop the Lone Star State from getting relief from the power outage


                            Did Joe Biden block Texas from increasing power capacity before storm? Experts call far-right claims 'false'
President Joe Biden has come under fire for allegedly stopping Texas from increasing its power capacity before the storm (Getty Images)

The inclement weather in Texas that sparked an electricity crisis recently has also seen a political controversy snowballing. While the winter storm left millions of people without heat, water and power for days as temperatures plummeted, the energy policies of President Joe Biden also came under his critics' scrutiny.

The Biden administration has already been drawing flak from conservatives over decisions like scrapping the Keystone XL pipeline or taking the US back to the Paris climate deal and now, it has been accused of using environmental regulations to stop the Lone Star State — one dominated by the Republicans — to increase its available power before the storm. The crisis has in effect seen a clash of viewpoints over fossil fuel and green energy. 

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The Texas power crisis, one of the worst in the history of the US, has also earned the state’s GOP leadership brickbats and it is no surprise that the political controversy centering it has snowballed to include presidential politics.

Texas’ Republican Governor Greg Abbott, a strong ally to former President Donald Trump, has blamed the grid operators and iced-over wind turbines for the crisis but overlooked the oil and gas industry that dominates the state’s economy and backs his politics to a big extent.

The US and Texas flags fly in front of high voltage transmission towers on February 21, 2021, in Houston, Texas. Millions of Texans lost power when winter storm Uri hit the state and knocked out coal, natural gas and nuclear plants that were unprepared for the freezing temperatures brought on by the storm. Wind turbines that provide an estimated 24 percent of energy to the state became inoperable when they froze. (Getty Images)

According to a report in the Associated Press: “As the toll deepened Thursday (February 18) from a week of historic winter storms, which have killed more than 20 people in Texas, the dogpiling on a power grid that is proudly isolated from the rest of the country ignores warnings known by the state’s GOP leaders for years.” “It’s almost like a murder suspect blaming their right hand for committing the crime,” Democratic state Rep. James Talarico was quoted as saying by AP.

Abbott, however, is unfazed and said on Fox News earlier this week that it is green energy that was responsible for the crisis. “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis,” he said.

'Texas was deliberately blocked'

The blame game got even more intense as conservative and far-right sites like The Post Millennial and InfoWars accused the Biden administration of blocking Texas from increasing its power capacity ahead of the devastating storm. 

“An order issued by the Biden Administration's Acting Secretary of Energy David Huizenga reveals that the Department of Energy limited the amount of power Texas could use to combat the power crisis the state is facing,” the PM reported.



 

“Going into effect Sunday, Feb. 14, Emergency Order 202-21-1 shows the Energy Dept. was aware of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide disaster declaration and that ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) was readying gas utilities in preparation for a demand surge. The order shows Acting Energy Secretary David Huizenga did not waive environmental restrictions to allow for maximum energy output, instead ordering ERCOT to utilize all resources in order to stay within acceptable emissions standards – including purchasing energy from outside the state,” InfoWars said in its report.

Claims are not true, say fact-checkers

However, fact-checking reports quickly came up with counter-claims saying the allegations are not true. Politifact countered the InfoWars article saying: "The article, interspersed with ads for InfoWars-brand sleep aid supplements, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed."

Pedestrians walk on an icy road on February 15, 2021, in East Austin, Texas. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather to Texas, causing traffic delays and power outages, and storms have swept across 26 states with a mix of freezing temperatures and precipitation (Getty Images)

“Facebook has banned InfoWars and associated accounts from its platform since 2019, citing concerns about hate speech and content promoting violence. Still, this article had been shared thousands of times on Facebook, so we wanted to take a closer look.”

It then said the story is “wrong” claiming the energy department did not block the Lone Star State from raising the power production before the storm hit. According to it, the “major smoking gun” that InfoWars cited is actually an emergency order that temporarily suspended federal emission caps in the state so as to enable some power plants to operate at maximum capacity. 

CBS19 VERIFY also came up with a report assessing the claim and said the energy department did not deny ERCOT permission to operate at maximum levels on grounds of violation of air-pollution limits. “The request was granted, but included a warning that ERCOT not exceed the amount of generation absolutely needed to restore power and keep Texas homes warm,” the VERIFY report added.

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