The Guardian view on Texas storms and power cuts: preparing for the worst

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The outages endured by residents result from the state’s political decisions – but all of us need to think more about ensuring resilience

Though the desperate conditions that millions of Texans have suffered for days were triggered by a powerful winter storm, the underlying issues are the work of human beings. At least 2.7 million households were still without power on Wednesday, and nearly 12 million faced water quality issues. Hospitals ran out of water. Families have burned belongings to keep their children warm.

As bizarre as it may seem that residents of the biggest energy-producing state in the US can be left powerless for so long, these problems were foreseen. While Republican leaders in Texas have blamed a reliance on renewable energy, it was mostly natural gas plants that failed, with a reactor at a nuclear facility also forced offline. The desire to stay free from federal oversight means that Texas has a stand-alone grid, preventing it from importing power. The lack of regulation meant that price competition took precedence over stability of service. The grid’s operator was warned following power outages 10 years ago that equipment needed to be protected against extreme low temperatures, but failed to act. The system prioritised profits instead of the people it was supposed to serve.

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