MSNBC, CNN give straight news on California grid issues after panning Texas over winter blackout

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Left-leaning media outlets have decided to take a more objective approach to covering the electrical grid issues plaguing California after slamming Texas following last year’s winter storm that caused blackouts across the state. 

In February 2021, following a winter storm that caused widespread power outages for 4 million Texans that left almost 100 dead, top Democrats began to call for investigations into state Republicans’ handling of the crisis, reaffirming their support for radical environmental policies. 

“Governor Abbott thought Texas could run an electrical grid that ignored the climate crisis,” Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, N.Y., tweeted at the time. “It was not resilient.”

Schumer went on to call for a federal investigation to look into how the Republican governor’s policies “have failed and exacerbated the winter storm crisis.”

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“As with COVID, a natural disaster has become far deadlier due to the inaction & ineptitude of Abbott and Texas’ Republican leadership,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke similarly tweeted. “This didn’t have to happen and doesn’t have to continue.”

Wind whips embers from a burning tree during a wildfire Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, near Hemet, Calif. 

Wind whips embers from a burning tree during a wildfire Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, near Hemet, Calif.  (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Almost immediately, figures on CNN and MSNBC began to follow Democratic allies and criticize state leaders for the deadly outages. The situation was amplified after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, R., appeared to blame renewable energy alternatives for Texas’ situation, claiming that the electrical grid failure showed how the Green New Deal would be a “deadly deal” for the United States. 

The media cried foul, criticizing Abbott’s rhetoric, as well as the Texas GOP for their handling of energy policy in the Lone Star state. The issue was further exacerbated when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was caught leaving the state for Cancun during the disaster. The media pushed back on the idea that wind turbines or other forms of renewable energy played a role in the disaster, and instead used the situation to double down on aspects of Democrats’ progressive energy policy. 

With a graphic plastered across the screen that read “No, it wasn’t the windmills,” MSNBC’s “All In” host Chris Hayes asserted that the grid failure in Texas was the result of a “complex confluence of factors.” He claimed that these factors included extreme weather in an “era of climate change,” a “woefully underdeveloped” energy infrastructure, as well as Texas’ “aggressive” deregulation of an independent energy market. 

MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” host Nicolle Wallace gave a similar critique of Texas, claiming the outages were a result of a larger Republican effort to “dismantle the state” and thus, energy. She further claimed that Republicans were engaging in disinformation by critiquing renewable energy. 

“This is the reality of the toxic sort of stew of today’s GOP,” she added. 

Another MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough, laughed as he claimed that the reason wind turbines did not work during the winter storm was because “they bought the wrong ones.”

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A hillside catches fire from the Fairview Fire Monday, Sept. 5, 2022, near Hemet, Calif. 

A hillside catches fire from the Fairview Fire Monday, Sept. 5, 2022, near Hemet, Calif.  (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)

On at least two separate occasions, CNN attempted to push back against Republicans’ claims about the electrical grid. In one instance, CNN’s Pamela Brown ripped into Abbott for his critique of progressive energy policies, asserting that placing blame on things like the Green New Deal was analogous to blaming your neighbor’s unplugged space heater after a fire destroys the whole apartment complex. 

Furthermore, CNN’s Brianna Keilar went on a lengthy rant in which she slammed Abbot and placed the blame on Texas for choosing to operate its own power grid and “refusing the help” of the federal system which every other state relies upon. 

“Texas makes like Fleetwood Mac and goes its own way,” Keilar smirked.

At one point, the CNN host also cited New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as an authority on power issues in Texas, displaying a tweet arguing the infrastructure failures in the state were “quite literally” what happens when you don’t pursue a Green New Deal. 

But no such criticism of lawmakers, the state, or any particular grid operators was anywhere to be found after California narrowly avoided blackouts this past week as leaders urged residents to conservatively use their home and vehicle electricity. Instead, media networks placed blame solely on extreme heat and climate change.

According to a review of Grabien transcripts, primetime talk shows on MSNBC and CNN almost entirely avoided the situation in California, with morning and daytime news programs pushing the occasional update off to reporters on the ground. 

CNN’s Erin Burnett briefly mentioned California’s grid strain, noting that 58 million Americans have been warned to prepare for rolling power outages.

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The decision to require all new vehicles in the state to run on electricity by 2035 by the California Air Resources Board that came two years after Gov. Gavin Newsom first directed regulators to consider such a policy.

The decision to require all new vehicles in the state to run on electricity by 2035 by the California Air Resources Board that came two years after Gov. Gavin Newsom first directed regulators to consider such a policy. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam said that “part of the reason” for the possible outages was that it is “just so extremely hot.” She did not explain any other causes for the grid strain, instead noting that it is a problem stretching across the entire length of the U.S.’ west coast. She also advised Americans to “ease up” on the thermostat from 4:00 to 9:00 PM. 

Over on MSNBC, NBC correspondent Steve Patterson claimed the “explosive fires” and the “incredible heat” were putting “immense pressure” on the grid. 

“It’s the primary worry today,” Patterson said. “If they don’t reduce that energy usage, we could see rolling blackouts which would be truly disastrous.” 

Both channels repeatedly focused on the record-breaking heat as the reason behind the potential outages. 

Only ABC News, which released an online article entitled “Why California has blackouts: A look at the power grid,” gave more detail as for the reasons behind California’s recent electric problems, as well as past issues, such as an August 2020 heat wave that resulted in rolling blackouts. The article by Meredith Deliso began by noting that “increased demand and extreme heat” were factors impacting the grid, but also made note of “breakdowns and human error,” as well as the state’s renewable energy supply. 

“The state’s grid is powered, in part, by renewable energy, including solar power and hydropower,” Deliso wrote. “The solar supply decreases toward the end of the day, prompting the calls to reduce energy use after 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. There can also be uncertainty with solar supply due to factors such as cloud cover and smoke from wildfires, as the state battles several blazes.”

Despite the difference in tone from the liberal media when it came to reports on California and Texas’ power grids, coverage was similar across the two events in one notable way. Both instances saw media outlets repeatedly tout progressive energy policies and warn of climate change. 

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People seeking shelter from below freezing temperatures rest inside a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston following blackouts.

People seeking shelter from below freezing temperatures rest inside a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston following blackouts. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Washington Post acted as perhaps the best example of this media infatuation, with one article written about the Texas blackouts earlier this month, and another two pieces about the California grid issues last week. 

“A year after Texas cold spell, study shows renewable energy could help prevent blackouts,” The Washington Post’s Kasha Patel wrote. Her “Capital Weather Gang” piece highlighted a recent study that showed how electricity blackouts could soon be avoided across the nation by switching to solar, wind, and water energy sources. 

After making note of the devastation caused by the February 2021 winter storm, Patel hyped the study, arguing that switching to 100% clean and renewable energy sources could end Texas’ problems. Later in the piece, Patel noted that other researchers as well as those “outside the science field” contended that the plan would be too expensive, more so than other sources, including nuclear energy. However, the author claimed that while solar was expensive years ago, it is one of the cheapest energy sources to employ today. 

Another Washington Post business story by Evan Halper and Erica Werner touted California’s unwavering commitment to green energy, with state officials arguing that the issue is not the aggressive pace of their transition, which includes banning gas vehicles by 2035, but rather the climate change such a transition is “designed to confront.”

The writers spent ample time detailing new innovations in renewable energies, such as batteries the size of a small cottage that enable energy to be distributed and stored on an industrial level. The piece also highlighted several California citizens and their thoughts on the grid strain, the exhaustive heat, and climate change. The piece noted that Californians are more than willing to “buy in.”

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The heat “is definitely something that’s getting worse,” one student living in Monterey Park told the paper. “It’s hard to ignore global warming.”

The piece also made note of a clothing store owner, who in the past cranked up the air conditioning to “sweater weather” to move product, but was quick to point out “I wouldn’t do that now.” She instead has made a habit of setting the thermostat to 78 degrees, as recommended by state officials.