February 24, 2021 453 PM
Considering last week’s events, and the desire to blame someone, maybe we should consider looking in the mirror. On one side we have AOC telling us this proves we need to switch to energy sources other than fossil; on the other, we have other people telling us we rely too much on wind energy in Texas. Neither assertion is valid. Part of the background noise is to always mention climate change whenever we have a significant storm, which I don’t think is helpful either. We have had significant storms like this in Texas before, so you don’t need to invoke climate change to properly plan for this.
As far as AOC goes, my brother calls her “a cultural icon,” while she seems more like the village idiot to me. Here’s a case that shows a total lack of appreciation for the superior energy density and portability of fossil fuels — that’s not a political statement, it’s just a fact. But it appears we have a larger and larger segment of our population that has no direct involvement with such things, their sole experience being to generate words. It’s obvious our oil patch completely missed cold weather operations. It also has heavily electrified its operations, so a lack of gas to power generators means a lack of power to lift oil and gas, process it and ship it. I used to work in the oil patch in Alaska and Russia (and also in Texas), where such a storm as we just had here would just be a normal event, but we had procedures and equipment that shrugs it off. But the event is not some inherent defect with fossil fuels.
The reason behind the failure I suspect is when we use present worth economics (a string of future cash flows being set equal to today’s investment, with financial hurdles) to purchase and operate equipment, we stop at three standard deviations and consider nothing further. This is key, as the future cash flows are usually calculated by expected value, generated statistically. Most likely, this is due to relying on the good old normal curve to calculate risks, and it pretty much stops at three standard deviations. But risk is not just a matter of probability, it also has to consider impact or consequence. It is fully possible to adapt some north country practices and still be economic, contrary to some of the stuff I’ve read in the past few days. Things like dual-fueled turbo generators and compressor packages, custom insulating blankets for key valves, low temperature greases — the best way to find out the specifics is to poll the operators (I mean the guys in the field), and find out what worked and what didn’t.
As far as wind turbines go, these are also used in northern climes successfully. There are anti-ice and de-ice measures, “slick” coatings to discourage ice build up, etc. Aircraft also use airfoils and adapted anti-ice measures decades ago. Also contrary to what I’ve read recently, these measures are not going to “double” the price of wind energy. Anyway, please be skeptical of anyone who is out to blame someone or some method of power generation, since this is another subject that has been too heavily politicized.
Dave Leet, P.E.
The state’s epic power grid collapse left millions freezing. Senator Ted Cruz’s Cancun get-away became a mistake when, yes, caught cold. Had Travis, Bowie and Crockett behaved that way, their contributions to Texas would not be called heroic.
But “mistake”? A mistake is an honest, good faith error, like reaching for ground coffee but somehow buying whole beans.
Governor Greg Abbott blamed the nonexistent Green New Deal’s wind turbines, though those are able to function in arctic extremes. Not winterizing key fossil fuel infrastructures invited repeating 2011’s experience. The go-it-alone approach insulated utility companies from the additional expenses of federal oversight.
Brace for the next preventable disaster. Real-world implications of “profits over people”/“no regulations” fail the Constitution’s “contributing to the common welfare” yardstick.
A mistake votes for GOP governance. Gross recklessness allows an irresponsible political party, unable to learn from experience, hold hostage important matters of public health and safety.
Rev. Barry Abraham Zavah