PATRICK MARTIN—A major factor is the decision of Texas state officials, adhering to Republican Party doctrine, to take no notice of climate change, despite a series of climate-induced disasters that have befallen the state—tornadoes, floods, droughts, wildfires. Above all, there was Hurricane Harvey, which spawned floods that devastated the Houston area in 2017, killing more than 100 people and causing damage estimated at $125 billion.
Climate change is believed to be a major contributor to the more frequent eruptions of the “polar vortex,” which bring bursts of super-cold air into regions where subzero temperatures have historically been rare.
But there are other political and economic decisions that underlie the current crisis. Texas operates a state-wide power grid that is disconnected from the major national grids that cover the remaining 47 states of the contiguous US. The state government has chosen this policy in order to evade the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees power grids that cross state lines.