The White House said Thursday a severe winter storm that engulfs Texas and the surrounding states is the type of extreme weather event climate change is causing, and rejected claims by Texas officials that “green energy” caused widespread power outages .
The crisis in America’s largest oil and gas producing state has brought Democratic President Joe Biden’s White House into conflict with Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, who initially did not recognize Biden’s 2020 election victory.
Abbott ordered state officials in January to combat Biden’s push to combat climate change by suspending new oil and gas leases and cutting subsidies for fossil fuels.
Biden spoke to Abbott late Thursday, pledging that the federal government would continue to work with state and local authorities to meet the critical needs of those affected, the White House said in a statement. Biden also said he would direct additional federal agencies to review immediate steps that could be taken to help Texans.
White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall previously told reporters that 1 million or more people were still suffering from power outages as a result of the storm, blaming climate change, which some Republican officials in the affected states have denied or downplayed.
“The extreme weather events we are witnessing this week … show us again that climate change is real and is happening now and that we are not adequately prepared for it,” she told a White House telephone briefing.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden also spoke to Abbott two days ago, who came under fire this week after initially attributing the crisis to democratic efforts to transition to green energy sources and away from fossil fuels .
She noted that the Texas agency, which operates the state’s power grid, said that solar and wind power outages were the “least significant factor in the blackout.”
Reports suggesting otherwise are inaccurate, Psaki said, adding it was important to assess how to better protect the US national infrastructure and ensure its future resilience.
Texas’ Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT), a cooperative responsible for 90% of the state’s electricity, said Thursday it had made “significant strides” in restoring electricity. No detailed figures were given.
According to poweroutage.com, a website that tracks outages, 325,000 households in Texas were still without power, up from 2.7 million on Wednesday.
Disgruntled residents have trained much of their anger on ERCOT. Critics say they failed to heed warnings following a cold weather collapse in 2011 to ensure that Texas’s energy infrastructure, which is primarily based on natural gas, was winterized.
Two-thirds of the electrical energy lost during the cold was due to a lack of natural gas supplies and a third came from wind turbine shutdowns, said Jim Blackburn, environmental attorney and professor at Rice University.
Abbott said Thursday that he had asked the state parliament to mandate generators to be overwintered.
Sherwood-Randall said the storm, which left millions of people in sub-zero temperatures with no heat and adequate water pressure, exposed weaknesses in American infrastructure that needed to be addressed.
“Electricity grids in our country, especially in Texas, are overloaded with the demands placed on them under these conditions, and the infrastructure is not designed to withstand these extreme conditions,” she said.
Biden would endeavor to “strengthen and harden our critical infrastructure so that it can be prepared for a wide range of challenges that we are likely to face,” added Sherwood-Randall.
Psaki said the government is working to develop a comprehensive infrastructure modernization plan that will be rolled out once Congress passes a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)