FACT CHECK: Fox News aired bizarre and wildly misleading claims about Texas' blackouts that pin blame on renewables and climate policies

FACT CHECK: Fox News aired bizarre and wildly misleading claims about Texas' blackouts that pin blame on renewables and climate policies
Fox News host Tucker CarlsonScreenshot/Fox News
  • Some Fox hosts and guests misleadingly blamed Texas' power grid collapse on renewable energy and climate policies.
  • Fox's Tucker Carlson falsely claimed that millions of Texans lost power because wind turbines froze.
  • Gov. Abbott and former Gov. Perry misleadingly argued the Green New Deal would cause future energy crises.

While millions of Texans suffered from power outages amid extreme winter weather, a slew of Fox News hosts and guests misled their viewers by blaming the state's power grid collapse on renewable energy and progressive climate policies.

Prominent Republicans, including the governor of Texas, President Donald Trump's former energy secretary, and Fox primetime hosts, pegged the problem on wind and solar energy, the Green New Deal, and President Joe Biden's administration for the state's infrastructure failure.

We fact-checked those claims.
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'The windmills froze'

"The windmills froze, so the power grids failed," Fox opinion host Tucker Carlson claimed Monday night. "It seems pretty clear that a reckless reliance on windmills is the cause of this disaster."

Fact check: The majority of energy sources that went offline in Texas were not wind turbines, but power plants that run on fossil fuels, including natural gas. While Texas produces more wind energy than any other state, the state's grid manager, ERCOT, was only expecting wind farms to produce 7% of its energy in the winter.

The term "windmill" is also not quite correct. Windmills are used to mill corn and other grains into flour and pump water. Wind turbines generate electricity.
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A spokesperson for Fox News declined to comment on the record, but pointed Insider to Carlson's Wednesday clarification that wind power did not make up the majority of Texas' offline energy sources.

Also this week, Fox News contributor and former GOP congressman Sean Duffy falsely claimed that the US must rely on fossil fuel sources because renewable technology isn't reliable in bad weather. "Windmills don't work when it's freezing and solar panels don't work when it's really cloudy and snowy out. We need fossil fuels," Duffy told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo.
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Fact check: Wind turbines have been producing energy in the US for at least four decades.

Wind turbines are perfectly capable of generating power in freezing temperatures if they're properly weatherized. Because Texas rarely experiences Arctic spells like this, energy producers in the state simply haven't invested in weatherizing their equipment, including wind turbines and pipes that transport natural gas.

Experts say that if Texas energy producers had weatherized their equipment - which the federal government has recommended they do in the past - the state wouldn't be experiencing such a severe crisis.
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Offline solar arrays contributed little to the statewide outages. And, like wind turbines, solar panels can function in freezing temperatures. Heavy snowfall can limit how much electricity they generate, but typically any dip in output is only temporary.

Denying climate science

Carlson also claimed on Monday that Texas' extreme winter weather is evidence that "global warming is no longer a pressing concern" in the state.

Carlson is an outspoken climate science denier. During a December interview with conservative activist Charlie Kirk, the Fox host argued that climate change is fabricated by "crazed narcissist[s]" who believe "there is no God."
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Fact check: While climate change is not making winter colder, research shows that it can make certain weather events more extreme including hurricanes and wildfires. Climate change may also alter the jet stream, which can cause polar air to plunge south. Ironically, relying on fossil fuels, which emit carbon, only worsens climate change.
FACT CHECK: Fox News aired bizarre and wildly misleading claims about Texas' blackouts that pin blame on renewables and climate policies
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sean Hannity's Fox News program.Screenshot/Fox News

Blaming Biden and the Green New Deal

On Tuesday night, Carlson claimed that the Green New Deal, a proposal put forward by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and some of her Democratic colleagues, is to blame for Texas' crisis.

"Unbeknownst to most people, the Green New Deal came to Texas [and] the power grid in the state became totally reliant on windmills," he said. "The same energy policies that have wrecked Texas this week are going nationwide - they're coming to your state."
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Fact check: Green New Deal legislation has not passed in Texas or on the federal level and is not responsible for Texas' growing renewable energy sector. Texas has a lot of wind power because Texas is windy, there's plenty of land, and wind turbines produce cheap energy. In fact, some of the lowest-cost electricity in the country can be found in Texas, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

On Tuesday, Rick Perry, a former Texas governor and secretary of energy under President Donald Trump, argued that the US must rely at least in part on natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy in order to avoid crises like the one Texas is experiencing. "The key here is to have the wisdom to have diverse energy sources," Perry said. "If this Green New Deal goes forward the way the Biden administration appears to want it to, then we'll have more events like we've had in Texas all across the country as we strangle the diversity that we're gonna need to keep this country going."
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The state's Republican governor, Greg Abbott, made a similar argument during a Tuesday night Fox interview and called the Green New Deal a "deadly deal."

"It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states to make sure we will be able to heat our homes in the winter times and cool our homes in the summertime," Abbott told Fox News opinion host Sean Hannity.

Abbott later revised his comments, pointing out that "every source of power that the state of Texas has has been compromised."
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FACT CHECK: Fox News aired bizarre and wildly misleading claims about Texas' blackouts that pin blame on renewables and climate policies
Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry.J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Fact check: Wind turbines and solar panels produce energy intermittently, which oil-and-gas advocates often use to underscore the value of fossil-fuel power plants, which can usually kick on at any time. Newer technologies like batteries that last for days and high-voltage power lines, however, can make the problem of intermittency obsolete. Other energy sources that don't rely on fossil fuels, like hydropower and nuclear, are not intermittent.

The Biden administration has not endorsed the Green New Deal but has proposed a nearly $2 trillion plan that would make the grid carbon-free by 2035 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Renewable energy provided about a fifth of the nation's energy last year, according to the EIA.

Since taking office last month, Biden has signed a series of executive orders reversing Trump-era climate policies, including rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, blocking the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and halting leasing in Alaska's Arctic National wildlife refuge.
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