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Noem Lies About Causes of Winter Blackouts: Blame Fossil-Fuel Dependence and Isolated Power Grid

Kristi Noem fired up the hot air in her private Fox News studio to try diverting blame for the rolling blackouts hitting Texas and points north amid this week’s big winter storm and cold snap to green energy and President Joe Biden:

As thousands of Americans are struggling to stay warm amid record-setting extreme cold and rolling blackouts, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem warned Tuesday that energy policies coming out of Washington, D.C. won’t help prevent future outages.

…Noem, who’s blasted President Joe Biden both as a candidate and since he took office for his stated commitment to renewable fuel sources, said America will be even less equipped to handle future extreme-cold spells if the president continues to walk back Trump-era energy policy and abandoning fossil fuels at the expense of the economy.

“Families all across the U.S. are facing life-threatening cold right now,” Noem said. “This should remind everyone – including President Biden – that an America-first energy policy is critically important for the continued success of our great nation” [Joe Sneve, “Gov. Noem Says Rolling Blackouts Highlight Concerns Regarding President Biden’s Energy Policy {paywall},” Aberdeen American News, 2021.02.17].

There’s science involved, so naturally, Kristi Noem is ridiculously wrong. Wind turbines can function less efficiently and break down in the cold just like other machines, but the idea that increased reliance on wind energy has made the current Texas blackouts worse is false narrating from wishful oily Republicans.

The reality is that yes, some of Texas’ wind turbines were frozen by the cold weather. That means that at some points in recent days, Texas’ renewable energy was providing slightly less power to the grid than was predicted by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees electricity production in the state.

But at other times over the past few days, wind was actually providing more energy to the grid than ERCOT predictions. That’s because wind turbines tend to provide less energy to the grid in the winter, and so ERCOT plans for wind to contribute a small proportion of the overall energy mix.

The majority of Texas’ shortfall in energy production that has caused massive blackouts this week didn’t come from renewables but from fossil fuels, with natural gas production seeing the most disruption [David Gilbert, “No, Frozen Wind Turbines Did Not Cause the Texas Blackouts,” Vice, 2021.02.17].

Natural gas production and transportation broke down because Texas didn’t design its system to withstand cold temperatures. That unexpectedly cold weather came because Texas, South Dakota, and the rest of Big-Oil slurping America didn’t do enough to stop climate change:

The failure of the electricity grid in Texas, USA, and the rolling blackouts in the Midwest, are one more consequence of climate breakdown.

The root problem is that the Arctic is growing warmer. As it does so, paradoxically, there is less of a barrier preventing very cold weather in the far north from moving south. This extremely cold weather then blankets cities and downs where people live [Jonathan Neale, “Texas: Grids, Blackouts, and Green New Deals,” The Ecologist, 2021.02.17]. 

Texas also fell victim to its own rugged Noem-y individualist ideology. Texas couldn’t import energy to supplement its sudden shortage because Texas has mostly walled off its own power grid to avoid federal regulations:

The Texas Interconnected System — which for a long time was actually operated by two discrete entities, one for northern Texas and one for southern Texas — had another priority: staying out of the reach of federal regulators. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Power Act, which charged the Federal Power Commission with overseeing interstate electricity sales. By not crossing state lines, Texas utilities avoided being subjected to federal rules.

…ERCOT was formed in 1970, in the wake of a major blackout in the Northeast in November 1965, and it was tasked with managing grid reliability in accordance with national standards. The agency assumed additional responsibilities following electric deregulation in Texas a decade ago. The ERCOT grid remains beyond the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which succeeded the Federal Power Commission and regulates interstate electric transmission [Kate Galbraith, “Why Does Texas Have Its Own Power Grid?” Houston Public Media, 2021.02.16].

Realizing Noem’s own supposed “all of the above” approach to energy policy (which really translates as, “I can’t win a real policy debate seeking the best energy policy, so I’ll just avoid science and facts and hard thinking and try to make people think continued promotion of dirty, dwindling fuel sources is really some kind of open-minded magnanimity”) requires being able to access all of the above, some of which will come from elsewhere. And amidst this cold snap, places with connections to elsewhere did a better job of keeping their lights on:

Research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that connecting the primary U.S. electrical grids would make it easier for the country to handle localized outages by sharing power across regions. It would also make it much cheaper to reach decarbonization goals.

El Paso, Texas, which is on a different grid than the rest of the state, largely kept its power on despite seeing the same bone-chilling temperatures. About 3,000 electricity customers had an outage lasting less than five minutes, CBS 4 reported. And while the Great Plains and Midwest also saw rolling blackouts, they were far smaller than in Texas, in part because the grid in the Midwest was able to pull electricity from a grid in the East, according to the American Council on Renewable Energy.

“During the height of power outages this holiday weekend, over 5 million Midwestern homes saw their lights stay on due to seven gigawatts (GW) of electricity shared from a regional grid in the East,” ACORE said in a statement. “Building out more high-capacity interregional lines is an essential part of the effort to ensure grid reliability in an era of climate change” [Irina Ivanova, “Texas Flunks Climate Change Test as Energy Grid Freezes Up,” CBS News, 2021.02.17].

Kristi Noem has exploited the coronavirus pandemic to boost her political brand. Now she is exploiting a bitter and deadly winter storm to scapegoat her 2024 opponent. In response to both natural disasters, Noem has lied about basic science and effective public policy and advocated exactly the kinds of bad decisions that make each problem (contagion, climate change) worse.

Basically, if you’re running a state or nation, take whatever Kristi Noem says and do the opposite: going green, fighting climate change, and promoting more cooperation, nationwide and worldwide, would help us deal with blizzards, blackouts, and other big problems.

If the next election were going to be decided by policy, intelligence, and honesty rather than who looks hotter on a horse, Kristi Noem would be toast.

p.s.: Wind turbines work fine up in frigid Canada.


  1. grudznick 2021-02-17 19:23

    When you are as old as grudznick you experience several natural climate changes. It’s nothing to get excited about.

  2. John Dale 2021-02-17 19:38

    Zach Vorhees reported that the Texas energy company responsible for the blackouts had plenty of energy .. seems interesting to have this during a time when cold deaths and sickness is so profitable for the medical community.

  3. John 2021-02-17 19:42

    Posted on WAPO by Geo1976:
    “part of the problem was that they actually ran out of natural gas! The US started allowing LNG exports in 2015 and evidently they didn’t hold back enough for domestic use. Check these out: . (1) (2) (3) Most LNG export terminals are in Texas:

    Now Gov (TX-Q) Secede Abbott signed a likely illegal and unconstitutional order restricting interstate commerce – the sale of natural gas across state lines. Nothing quite like a republican governor picking winners and illegally regulating interstate commerce.

    TX, like an adolescent, must live with its choices, to learn from its choices, to suffer the consequences of its choices. TX chose to ignore preparing for the winter events of ’89, ’11, and one every decade between, before, and after. TX chose wild economic capitalism for their electrical grid. They got what they wanted – a 10,000% increase in electrical rates. Let them live with it.

    noem’s chriping about this certainly has nothing to do with her speaking slot at the spring RNC budget meeting . . . right . . ..

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-17 19:49

    So we start off the conversation wuth Grudz’s ancient denialism and John Dale’s baseless conspiracy theorizing. Sigh.

    Grudz, you have not experienced several natural climate changes. You have not seen the Arctic melt or the wholesale decimation, repopulation, and redecimation of ecosystems.

    John, give me a link so I can destroy your bogus an distracting claim with evidence.

  5. Mark Anderson 2021-02-17 20:00

    Jeez Johnny, you need to get your brain out more, i know its cold but maybe a mid morning walk would help.

  6. Dicta 2021-02-17 20:06

    Usually I defend Grudz, but that was an absurd hot take.

  7. Detroit Lewis 2021-02-17 20:10

    If Kristi Noem’s brain was a whirly gig it couldn’t spin longer than 10 seconds.

  8. grudznick 2021-02-17 20:25

    Well, OK, I was feeling a bit creaky and thought I’d enlighten you all about the last time the ice receded from the Great State of South Dakota, but you fellows are just too grumpy about the cold, it seems.

    We have one little cold snap and Texas falls apart. It’s less about wind power and more about them having their own power grid and being ill prepared to sit around in chilly houses for a bit.

  9. DaveFN 2021-02-17 20:42

    In light of the recent Russian hack of at least nine government agencies, why is no one raising the question of this crisis might not be an effect of same?

  10. Mark Anderson 2021-02-17 21:20

    Well Grudz Rachael Maddow had it down, the same thing happened in Texas in 1989 and in 2011, the feds told them they would have to winterize their systems or it would happen again, they haven’t done diddly because they don’t have to, freedom rings again. I don’t need you to tell me about the Ree Hills, it was a great party place in high school because you could see any cop coming and leave in another direction, ice ages are good for some things. I would talk to you about cause and effect but I’m tired, naturally.

  11. Whitless 2021-02-17 21:27

    Kristi Noem once again exhibits her narcissistic sociopathic tendencies, this time by telling big lies about the Texas power crisis. No leader can successfully lead when he/she refuses to acknowledge reality. Scientists have warned that climate change will cause more weather extremes – hotter weather, colder weather, heavier precipitation events, etc. The record breaking cold in Texas is the most recent example of the extreme weather events that are increasing in frequency as CO2 emissions rise.

    As summarized well by Cory, the life-threatening breakdown in power transmission for Texans is for two reasons: (1) the result of power producing facilities – coal, nuclear, wind, and primarily gas – not being built to operate effectively in sustained cold weather conditions, and (2) a largely self-contained power grid system.

    Texas state government, a longtime supporter of fossil fuels and denier of climate change, faces a difficult a choice: (1) acknowledge that climate change exists and embark upon an expensive rebuilding of its power system to withstand occasional extreme cold or (2) continue to deny the existence of climate change and the increased likelihood of extreme climate events, thereby condemning its citizens to further misery.

    The smart move would be to acknowledge climate change and implement a plan to reduce CO2 emissions. The sad reality is that reducing CO2 emissions will take many years. Consequently, it may be necessary not only to harden the power system in southern states against occasional severe winter weather, but also to change building practices for homes and businesses to provide more insulation, higher capacity heating systems, and water supplies that are less likely to freeze.

    Anti-science blowhards, such as Kristi, are foisting a false narrative about green energy and climate change upon the public. This false narrative is harmful because it creates unnecessary barriers and resistance to reducing CO2 emissions. In doing so, long-term harm and remedial costs are increased. We need leaders who embrace the facts and implement an energy strategy based upon the best available information.

    The rate and manner of adapting to and addressing climate change is worthy of debate between liberals and conservatives. But anti-science, fact denying, liars such as Kristi are a disservice to this country.

  12. jerry 2021-02-17 21:41

    Why would anyone give a hoot about a small time governor from a fly over state talking about Texas? So she rules the roost over the rosters in her henhouse in South Dakota, but most think what she says means about as much as a bucket of spit(sp). This is blizzard country and we depend upon wind power (that is properly winterized) to provide the grid with power. When we have a blizzard here, and the power goes down for weeks in many cases, I have never heard any governor denounce our power companies, they instead send hay. Did Texas say anything about the way NOem was out to lunch when Atlas hit us? BTW, if most of Texas would have been on the national grid, they would have drinking water and heat.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2021-02-17 22:07

    well…Texas has problems because they build things like power grid infrastructure on the cheap and have a system of very shaky energy systems built to provide maximum profits (think Enron)…as to Kristi, there are just no checks and balances on her ignorance

  14. jerry 2021-02-17 23:13

    Did the dummy governor of South Dakota complain about the August storm in Iowa? Where was trump and where was our little dummy governor during the economic and deadly thunderstorm in Iowa, our neighbor?

    ” No single thunderstorm event in modern times — not even a tornado — has wrought as much economic devastation as the derecho that slammed the nation’s Corn Belt on Aug. 10, based on analyses from the public and private sectors.

    The storm complex, blamed for four deaths, hit Cedar Rapids, Iowa, particularly hard, cutting power to almost the entire city of 133,000 people, and damaging most of its businesses and homes.”

    The governor is a blowhard that is about as significant as a cloudy day. She needs to get over herself and get on her widdle pony

  15. Mike Livingston 2021-02-17 23:53

    If you were stupid enough to vote for donny & crispy, you deserve to reap the bounty of their bigoted, money-grubbing,oil-soaked ignorance.

  16. leslie 2021-02-18 00:36

    Remember Big Oil’s own scientists alerted management to global warming inevitability in 1977. 45 years ago. In 1988 Big Oil took action. It began designing off shore rigs to anticipate rising oceans. Thats the year NASA’s Jim Hansen blew the whistle.

    Denialism by industry was the result for decades. Kristi had to have learned something about it by age ten. Is truth a policy position of Republicans? How do they justify it in their form of policy and leadership. Did the cynicism of Rush Limbaugh on the radio for 30 years allow them to become ostriches?

    Is this how Parler and Oath Keepers abided violent domestic terrorists who took down Biden’s election certification? Trump and Noem are clearly losers.

  17. John 2021-02-18 04:28

    Sen (TX-Q) Cruz flew with his family to Cancun from Houston Wednesday night.
    The board (ERCOT) managing the TX electrical grid took down its list of names of the board members. (The board was oblivious to internet archive sites.)
    Five members of the ERCOT board do not live in TX.

    Gov (TX-Q) Secede Abbott was seen addressing the TX electrical problem.

    Ah, where would we be without republican accountability?

  18. M 2021-02-18 04:57

    Like Niki Haley who clearly needs a refresher course on U.S. history.
    Like Moscow Mitch who manufactures an unconstitutional reason to acquit an idiot and has done nothing FOR the American people.
    Like Donald Grump who will always lie to get what he wants because he is a very sick person.
    Like Rush Limbaugh who was good for nothing.
    Kristi Noem is right in line with the Republican party.
    Deny and blame.
    No brain to problem solve.

  19. Mark Winegar 2021-02-18 06:19

    Well said Cory.

  20. Donald Pay 2021-02-18 08:42

    Thanks to DFP and many who commented above for pointing toward the facts Noem didn’t have the intelligence to find before flapping her lips. What an embarrassment Noem is for South Dakota. All she had to do to get the facts is contact the Republicans at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, but asking experts, even Republican ones, is above Noem’s abilities.

    I remember hearing about interconnection issues between the eastern and western grids in the 1990s when I lived in Rapid City. South Dakota dealt with interconnection issues because western SD is where the eastern and western grids border. I remembered how utilities in western South Dakota rigged local solutions to the problem of reliability. Then they started discussing actually interconnecting the eastern and western grids to improve the situation. Interconnection is something Texas, which operates is own independent grid, turned down. Tough titties, Texas. You had your chance. And so did Noem. Both of them are complete failures.

    At any rate, South Dakota utilities pushed for the interconnection and made it happen in 2003. Here’s the link:

  21. jerry 2021-02-18 09:52

    Donald Pay, excellent link to probe the memory. Of course, our illiterates governor cannot read anything more than a teleprompter in her bunker or else she would know to keep her pie hole shut regarding anything to do with science or the mystery of electrical workings, flip the switch love, that’s all you need know. All of which, then follows John’s link on the lies of our dummy perfectly.

  22. Richard Schriever 2021-02-18 10:24

    grudz of course concedes that human beings are a naturally occurring feature of the planet Earth and therefor all results of human activity (including influencing the alteration of their own climate) are a type of the “several natural climate changes” to which he refers – right?

  23. kj trailer trash 2021-02-18 11:52

    In one day, this horrendous moronic woman Noem spewed this idiotic crap about Texas and Biden’s energy policies, then tweeted some mind-blowingly horrific love for Limbaugh. I guess she has an ass, but that’s hard to believe because she has “no bottom” when it comes to evil and wrongheaded takes on everything. And at last count, 55k people “loved” her tweet about how wonderful this lizard Limbaugh was. Conservatives expect us to give them respect? Are you freaking kidding me????

  24. jerry 2021-02-18 12:06

    Dear Dummy Governor, Here is a website (internets) you can check out to see how much wind power means to the state you live in when you’re not traveling about lying your arse off.

    Do check it out so you don’t keep embarrassing us and causing heartburn to Black Hills Corporation on their investments in renewable energy. Hint to BHP, support Democrats with your campaign money, they understand the science of power.

  25. happy camper 2021-02-18 13:11

    We must have a national grid so every energy source can be moved to where it’s needed. Texas refuses to be part to avoid federal regulation and didn’t do recommended improvements after a storm 10 years ago. Idiot Rick Perry had the nerve to say “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” All this said, without storage capacity, propane is quite clean and would be the best way to run the necessary power plants. Descipacle Cruz just flew off to Mexico!!!

  26. Donald Pay 2021-02-18 13:46

    I sort of remember being ambivalent about the interconnection between east and west grids at the time. I had concerns about this being a way to service coal-fired power plants in Wyoming. I’m not sure if that was part of the idea for this interconnection or not. I saw it as a way to distribute wind power more efficiently from South Dakota, so that’s why I was sort of OK with it. I recall that Black Hills Power added another coal-fired power plant at its Wyodak coal mine at about this time, but it was a very small plant, and I think the power went to Cheyenne, Wyoming, not east. However, I note that BHP also had plans for other smaller plants and for a 10 times larger plant. I see that they built the smaller plants but not the larger one, and they have since closed a larger coal-fired plant.

  27. happy camper 2021-02-18 14:32

    Propane plants fire up quickly compared to coal or nuclear. Fossil fuel is still necessary, but a fully functioning national grid helps get the most out of renewables, and saves lives by getting electricity to where it’s needed. People have unnecessarily perished. The people of Texas are enraged at Cruz he’s is on his way home waiting for a standby flight.

  28. marvin kammerer 2021-02-19 10:37

    kristi doesn’t even look good on horse, get a new set of eyes or glasses !

  29. mike from iowa 2021-02-19 11:25

    Magats, not prepared for pandemic. Not prepared for bitter cold. Must not be boy scouts.

  30. mike from iowa 2021-02-19 11:39

    Texas judge lays blizzard catastrophe blame squarely on former guv Perry and guv A-Butt and he made no doubts about it.

  31. mike from iowa 2021-02-21 13:03

    Fake noize’s Larry Kudchewer says power outage in Texas consequence of electing Biden.

    Could be. He seems smarter than usual box of rocks dumb Fake Noize viewers.

  32. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-05 22:46

    Republicans screw up and people lose their lives in New Orleans (Bush), Texas, and DC (Trump and Giuliani). They take no responsibility, they just say, Thoughts and Prayers.

    Biden will keep encouraging alternative energy.

    We have to go with Joe, and lead ourselves, since SD government doesn’t lead.

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