As millions of Texans were battling a severe winter weather crisis without steady electricity, heat, and running water, InfoWars, the American far-right website run by Alex Jones, floated another conspiracy theory.
Published on 20 February, InfoWars’ article is headlined: “Joe Biden’s Dept. of Energy Blocked Texas from Increasing Power Ahead of Killer Storm.” It is still live on the site and has also been republished by the website Your News, with both versions being shared widely on Facebook and other social media.
“An Emergency Order from the Biden administration’s Department of Energy shows Texas energy grid operator ERCOT ( Electric Reliability Council of Texas) was instructed to stay within green energy standards by purchasing energy from outside the state at a higher cost, throttling power output throughout the state ahead of a catastrophic polar vortex,” the story read.
Debunking the claim, PolitiFact reported that the US Department of Energy had in fact approved their request to allow power plants in the snowstorm-battered state to temporarily bypass some environmental limits during the energy crisis, in order to produce more power.
As freezing temperatures hit the state, ERCOT, a body created to oversee the state’s power grid beyond the reach of federal regulators, reported that about 34 gigawatts of power were offline due to frozen instruments at natural gas and coal plants.
Before the outage, ERCOT wrote in a letter to acting energy secretary David Huizenga asking the government to allow Texas power plants to exceed federal emission limits until 19 February so that they could operate at maximum capacity.
In the letter sent on 14 February, ERCOT president Bill Magness wrote that “the loss of power to homes and local businesses in the areas affected by curtailments presents a far greater risk to public health and safety than the temporary exceedances of those permit limits that would be allowed under the requested order.”
The Energy Department issued an emergency order granting ERCOT’s request the same day. “Given the emergency nature of the expected load stress… I have determined that additional dispatch of the Specified Resources is necessary to best meet the emergency and serve the public interest,” Mr Huizenga wrote.
It is not the first time that InfoWars has floated a conspiracy theory. After describing the Sandy Hook school shooting as a hoax, InfoWars was banned from Twitter, Facebook, Apple News and YouTube in 2018 over concerns about its content.