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.
It remains astonishing that the richest country in the world cannot guarantee its residents such basic services such as reliable power, clean water and decent sanitation. But there should be no complacency elsewhere. Whether or not the heating of the Arctic is to blame for these particular snowstorms, as some scientists believe – by pushing frigid air from the north pole much further south – global heating means an increase in extreme weather events. Last year alone saw a Siberian heatwave, wildfires in Australia and the US, a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season and storms and floods in many parts of Asia.MSN The Guardian view on Texas storms and power cuts: preparing for the worst