Texas AG Hopeful Barry Smitherman Is Taking Credit for Saving Texas from Rolling Blackouts

Categories: Politics

Thumbnail image for BarrySmitherman.jpg
Barry Smitherman, savior of electric power.
If it were possible for a human being to physically climb into bed with an industry, Texas attorney general hopeful Barry Smitherman would be under the covers with oil and gas interests in a nanosecond. He has more than proved his ardor during nearly a decade as an energy regulator, first as chairman of the Public Utility Commission, then in his current role as chairman of the Railroad Commission.

In case there were any doubt, Smitherman put them to rest during an hour-long interview this week with Arlington's Lone Star Tea Party. His praise for the industry, mostly unsolicited, was effusive. Even when the interviewer queried him about Common Core, the federally backed education curriculum currently the subject of innumerable Tea Party conspiracy theories, he steered the discussion back to his favorite topic.

"I was not following this issue previously until a mom down in Corpus Christi showed me a a lesson plan that said 'Fossil fuels are bad because ...' and then you filled in the blank," he said. "And the child filled in 'because they pollute and are not renewable' and that was the right answer! And as I delved into this more and more, I began to see a curriculum on energy that was completely biased against fossil fuels -- this is in Texas! In Texas public schools, talking about the fact that oil and coal and gas pollute!"

See also: Barry Smitherman's Stint on the Texas Railroad Commission Is a Magnificent Fundraising Tool

Clearly outrageous, just like the notion of global warming. "Now they call it 'climate change,' because the earth is not warming," he quipped. "In fact, up here in North Texas, we know the earth is not warming: it's been bitterly cold the past four or five days."

Speaking of the recent cold spell, remember how Texas avoided the rolling blackouts everyone was afraid of? You apparently have Barry Smitherman to thank for that.

"I was really pleased that we were able to keep the plants operating through this cold spell because we required a couple of years ago our power plants to do more to prepare for cold weather, to insulate the pipes, and insulate the sensitive wiring areas so that if we got another cold front like we had [in 2011] we would not lose power," he said. "It turned out that we kept the lights on and it's worked very well."

What Smitherman is referring to is a set of winter-preparedness guidelines developed by power generators in the wake of the rolling blackouts of February 2011. Those guidelines were developed at the behest of the PUC, which Smitherman chaired at the time.

See also: Texas Narrowly Avoided a Series of Rolling Blackouts This Morning

Smitherman's claim that the new standards ensured generating capacity stayed online is plausible, even if the circumstances in the recent cold spell were too complex to give them full credit for averting rolling blackouts.

The other question, then, is how significant Smitherman's role was in developing those standards. He certainly played a role, but given the massive amounts of cash power generators lost from being caught with their pants down in 2011, they had every incentive to improve winter-weather preparedness. Logic suggests they would have upgraded their procedures regardless of whether the PUC involved itself.

We'll rate Smitherman's claim as half-true.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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9 comments
BurningFeet
BurningFeet

The salient quote here proving said candidate is not only full of it, but oozes brown as well:


"That included two plants in North Central Texas that suffered equipment failure caused by freezing weather."

gm0622
gm0622

So he must be the model of the dropped pants plug boy.

James080
James080

It is true that fossil fuels are non-renewable and cause pollution. Correct answer from the student. The next question should have been 'Fossil fuels are good because ...' and the list of reasons is long.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

"Now they call it 'climate change,' because the earth is not warming," he quipped. "In fact, up here in North Texas, we know the earth is not warming: it's been bitterly cold the past four or five days."

good grief, Smitherman is just showing how much he isn't qualified to hold office.

next thing we'll hear from this creton is "there isn't be a water problem/shortage here in Texas, it rained today!"

mcdallas
mcdallas

"but given the massive amounts of cash power generators lost from being caught with their pants down in 2011, they had every incentive to improve winter-weather preparedness. Logic suggests they would have upgraded their procedures regardless of whether the PUC involved itself."  Actually, that is faulty logic.  There is great logic in utilities working together to reduce capacity just as demand is increasing.  This enables them to charge a higher rate.



ChrisYu
ChrisYu

@mavdog white guy with good hair and nice teeth. he's qualified.

brantley.hargrove1
brantley.hargrove1

@mcdallas Interesting thought, but EFH might disagree with you. It was out $30 million when its plants went offline, forcing it to purchase on the spot market.

James080
James080

@mcdallas  

"There is great logic in utilities working together to reduce capacity just as demand is increasing.  This enables them to charge a higher rate."

Which is why almost 25% of capacity was off-line for scheduled maintenance during the recent cold snap. When weather related trouble developed at a few other plants, the PUC and power generating industry almost achieved the rolling black-out they crave and need so they can cram down their plans to build massive over-capacity at ratepayer expense.

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