Texas’s power disaster is a warning sign for the US

Texas’s power disaster is a warning sign for the US

America’s power grid is not ready.

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In February, extreme cold and an unusual winter storm left millions of Texans in the dark. Many went without power or water, in subzero temperatures, for nearly five days. It was a disaster; dozens died. But even though that storm hit much of the country, the power outages were mostly limited to Texas. That’s because Texas is on its own electrical grid, separate from the rest of the country, which means it can’t easily get power from other states in an emergency.

But Texas’s grid itself is not what failed. Power went out across Texas in the first place because energy sources across the state were unprepared for severe weather. And that didn’t have to happen; Texas had been warned about this exact scenario, and had actually experienced versions of it twice in the last 30 years. But they didn’t prepare.

Now the rest of the US faces the same issue. Climate change is making severe weather disasters more and more frequent. And the American energy system is not ready for it.

Read more about what happened in Texas and about the US electrical grid: https://www.vox.com/22289517/texas-storm-uri-weather-power-outage-snow

And check out more coverage of the Texas power crisis from the Texas Tribune: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/22/texas-power-grid-extreme-weather/

Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com.

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95 Responses

  1. Thomas Eli Adkinson says:

    The United States needs a whole lot more than just an revamped electrical grid. Our infrastructure is falling apart all over the place. Dams, levees, ports, bridges, roads, schools, etc…

  2. EloquentTiger says:

    Do parts of this country just have an allergic response to preparing for problems? They seem to have no problems doing that when it involves imaginary gun battles.

    • What seek ye says:

      – US Military spending is over 800 Billion
      – Approximately 18 of the next top 20 powerful militaries in the world are US allies.
      – One of the 2 enemies is China who only spends around 100 Billion
      – US government can give each state 2 Billion to use towards public services, raising wages, fixing homelessness, providing more housing and other needs, leisure, better roads and facilities to locals etc, can still outpace China by 600 Billion AND have over 700 Billion for the military.
      – Much of the general population of the US seem completely okay with this absurdity.

    • Adin P says:

      @J R But California turned power off so that no additional fires would be started. It wasn’t like they weren’t prepared.

    • PYRO is SPY says:

      @Adin P the government yes

    • Gaurav Thapliyal says:

      I do not understand how hard it is to understand. Sure it happened only thrice in the previous century but the number is bound to increase cause of climate change. Some people are saying its arctic wind and that happens every year yeah true it’s a natural phenomenon but earlier it used stay much more north and with global temperatures increasing its moving southward. I read a comment where someone compared this to new york getting hit by a hurricane. Sure, similar situation but the probability of that happening is still less than the probability of polar vortex reaching texas in coming years and eventually even new york gotta prepare for the hurricanes because tropics are getting warmer hence more active hurricane season. I dont know if it’s good or bad that texas maintains its own power grid but that grid needs to be updated and private companies are not doing that. Also I see people blaming green energy for power failure. Majority of the grid gets power from non renewable energy source coal and gas nearly 65 % . Even if one were to believe that all green sources of energy failed that would account for 35 % of the power lost. But what about the 65 %? Was it functioning as expected? Obviously not as the natural gas and coal storage faced issues because of winter. Even if texas continues to depend on non renewable energy for majority of its grid, it still needs to update storage and working of non renewable energy plants to avoid failures like this.

    • Budda Brotha says:

      @toosas so global warming cause the coldest week Texas has had in a century

  3. Terra Mater says:

    Yes: the polar vortex in the north pole is more likely to release cold air to the south in the future due to stability ruptures caused by climate change. The Arctic climate is changing: faster and to a larger extent than the ROW. And with it, its very delicate ecosystem. We made a whole series about this and, tbh, it can be seen everywhere.

    • 王若冰 says:

      A self promotion I actually didn’t mind

    • Agni Das says:

      Just wait till the clathrate starts melting … and boosting the greenhouse immediately thus melting more bottom layer clathrate – frozen gas..

    • Hello There says:

      @Fantastic Stranger As technology advances it’s never really too late, the solution will just require a lot more sacrifice on our parts. It’s easier to fix a problem now than when half the world is underwater

    • Paul Wyns says:

      Well we can change things. We can stop the magnetic reversal. We can intervene in the solar particle forcing caused by the solar minimum. We can halt the increased seismic activity caused by muons and the coming volcanic activity that is melting the poles. Oh, no we can’t.

    • prandomable says:

      Does this has anything to do with Global Warming?

  4. Noble Wolf says:

    This is actually really sad and scary. I hope 2021 does not become a disaster. Lord bless this year 😩💯

    • Matthew C says:

      @NotTODayArtt exactly. And to make it worse, businesses like bars and restaurants are going to be able to operate at 100% capacity, so whoever has covid-19 is going to spread it to everyone at these places or in private residences. Then there’s going to be another huge wave of cases and the deaths are going to be worse than before.

    • Christopher Marin says:

      This is just the beginning of the end brother, God bless you.

    • xEatMyRocketz says:

      Jesus is coming indeed

    • Kyrohnics says:

      Nah you’ll feel the wrath

    • Umbrella Corporation says:

      it is already a disaster and i hope it gets worse.

  5. A Y says:

    When everything is going good: Let’s de-regulate!
    When things go bad: Why are there no regulations!?

    • Al As 57 says:

      @cade spaulding Nature already does that. Its not as incompetent as the Texas govt.

    • Al As 57 says:

      @Case 2_0 That’s ridiculous.

    • Case 2_0 says:

      @Al As 57 the request form and denial of request are on the national department of energy’s website

    • Matthew Kim says:

      @Case 2_0 Even If texas wanted power from the national grid, they aren’t connected to either interconnect and would require brand new connections to be established.

    • Belly Dancer Em says:

      eh, they still don;t want to regulate when things go bad. They will just blame AOC and the New Green Deal

  6. ambessa shield says:

    “Voluntary” 😂😂 Read: politicians corrupted by private enterprise through lobbying bent over and took it all the way in

  7. Cute Bridge says:

    its almost as if these mega corporations are chasing the highest profit margins and dont care about the human impact that occurs

  8. Skillful Mess says:

    “Like in Oklahoma, which was also hit bad during the February storm.”
    People living in the north-east: “Which one?”

  9. Frederick Shepard says:

    This has to be one of the biggest “I told you so”, in American history.

    • Paow0w 27 says:

      @J R but I don’t think it was that majority of California that lost its power like Texas

    • emerylsg says:

      @J R if ur a texan i can see it clearly. pushing the topic on the californians so u can laugh at them this time, not today lol

    • Salts says:

      @J R that is not an argument. This is about Texas. Can’t point the finger here bud.

    • Amy Liu says:

      Why are you guys so against Texans I don’t get it. Ok we didn’t join the system but we’re also dealing with it ourselves. Now it just feels like you guys are bashing ppl who fell victim to unsuspected storms. First Harvey, then a freaking snowstorm. We never get snow in Texas and the last time storms happened was in the 1980’s. Who would’ve thought? We were unprepared and now we bear the burden. Stop talking like we deserve to experience this. Just chill.

    • Martez A says:

      As a Texan we still want our own power grid tho

  10. Damian0816 says:

    Texas: *Loses power*
    The government: “Oh no. Anyway….”

    • Derek Abshire says:

      @Vincent Zhou friends and family members died, I don’t think any of us find these comments amusing. You’re basically confirming it’s our one fault we lost our loved ones when in reality we’re just regular working citizens like most people trying to survive. No arguments stated above are helpful nor do they do anything to bring our loved ones back. Ironic that you all are the ones calling texans the bad guys.

    • Dot Salazar says:

      @Vincent Zhou
      He can blame himself also for NOT VOTING!!!

    • asdf asdf says:

      @Cole S heh, now all that’s left is to cede the union and let Donald Trump be the first president of the Texas Republic!!!

    • Aris F says:

      @Derek Abshire well Texans elected these officials so the blame fall on its leader and the people, Texans hates socialism and when got hit by disaster has no issue seeking help.

    • Samantha Rose says:

      @Derek Abshire I think most people feel sadness/compassion for your loved ones that were lost (or at least I do – can’t speak for other ppl) but it’s more so the idea that you keep doing this to yourself. When you vote to be independent – in other words self-reliant, cutting off any available aid provided by the rest of the union, in times like we just saw happen – *WE CAN’T GET AID TO YOU.* Again, my condolences for your loss, but you must remember: *You can’t have it both ways.* You can’t in one breath tell the rest of the Union to go f*** themselves and then beg for support when things go wrong electrically in the next breath. You have to choose one or the other – either we’re united and offer aid seamlessly to any and all states that need it or we’re separate and you fend for yourself with the resources you may or may not adequately have 🤷🏽‍♀️. Sorry but that’s just the way life works. Life’s not fair sometimes.

  11. steven baldin says:

    Canadians living down there prolly thinking “what’s the problem just a little snow”

  12. EPICFox207 says:

    “It had nothing to do with the type of energy”
    Looking at you Fox News, tsk tsk

    • Noname Noname says:

      @Kalle Ranta it wasn’t purely due to renewable energy, natural gas was affected as well. Wind turbines were definitely frozen solid though, at least where I was

    • Philip L says:

      @Kalle Ranta Fox News lied that it was entirely caused by renewables. But the were not wrong when stating that the green energy failed. It normally does in cold conditions. Wind turbines can’t handle the weight of the ice and solar panels can’t work with snow coving them. More so the lithium metal they have doesn’t work well in the cold. So it did play a factor.

    • Kalle Ranta says:

      @Philip L In Antarctica, pretty much everything is powered by renewable..

    • Joshua Lamance says:

      @Kalle Ranta Antartica is also technically a desert based on low precipitation. The solar panels & wind turbines on Antartica are weatherized and built specifically for the frigid conditions. Unfortunately in Texas this was not the case.

    • imark says:

      @Kalle Ranta don’t tell that to him. Faux news is devine. It can’t be wrong. He must stick with their alt facts, because that’s whats real for him.

  13. Bearded Jagger says:

    Please. Endless wars and Wall Street bailouts are more important than our infrastructure.

  14. DylanP_ayz says:

    And then there’s FOX news saying it’s Wind turbines fault instead of our senator going to Mexico to warm up :)))

  15. ze ottur says:

    Most US infrastructure was designed for a climate that no longer exists

    • RanOutOfChannelNames says:

      @ze ottur Again, on the point of frequency and severity, all of the NWS data again disagrees. There has been, even in recent years, no significant increase in either severity or frequency of weather events when compared to previous years.

    • fingerling1231 says:

      @RanOutOfChannelNames they said in the video that this happened in the 80s, 2011 and this year which is an increase in frequency. It’s obviously a small data set but it does suggest that events like this are something they should prepare for. Globally the weather is becoming more erratic due to climate change, Monsoon seasons cause more damage and more people are having to evacuate their homes. It won’t be long until those effects are seen in the US too.

    • Heady Murphy says:

      Yeah social climate, not weather

    • fingerling1231 says:

      @Heady Murphy weather and climate are different things. I don’t see how social climate directly caused this unpredictable weather.

    • ze ottur says:

      @Heady Murphy Interesting that you bring up the social climate we are experiencing now. Would you care to elaborate on how it relates to our infrastructure?

  16. lextacy2008 says:

    And without a state income tax, there is no way they will EVER winterize their energy in the future. Have fun with your de-regulation and de-funding.

  17. soccerguy325 says:

    So…there was a once in a century storm about once a decade, yet after each blackout Texas STILL thought it was a good idea to still produce their own energy independently when it had already empirically failed them?

    • Zaire A. says:

      @ThatOnekid yeah but it saves lives so

    • inconsistent says:

      @ThatOnekid you wouldn’t be saying that if someone you loved died during the February storm

    • Akram Alraeeini says:

      the issue isn’t that they produce energy independently because Alaska does that too. it was that they choose not to follow the regulations and standards because they were voluntarily not mandatory.

    • Savanna Vacek says:

      @ThatOnekid it’s not about financial designs. it’s about protecting lives and protecting the planet. it’s what’s best for everyone.

    • Me a dog says:

      Texas deserves it’s power nobody else’s !

  18. SirCavemaninthewest says:

    Amish: *weakness disgusts me*
    Indigenous: *lol*
    Natives: *don’t like it, leave!*
    Mexicans: *yeeah what they said*

  19. G says:

    Unregulated short term capitalism. We call ourselves “freedom” society to rest of the world, yet had little control to own power.

    Everywhere else in this world gasps, towards US / Texas infrastructure especially from countries living with few inch of snow.

  20. Vox says:

    One proposal for fixing the US grid: weave the divided power systems into a single national power grid. One study suggests it could save consumers as much as $47.2 billion a year through increased efficiency and cheaper renewable energy. Read more on Vox: http://bit.ly/30duu7d

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