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Weather & Science

Deadly Winter Storm Exposes Deep Flaws of US Energy System

  • Natural gas supplies plunged as wells froze, pipelines failed
  • Millions faced temproary blackouts as extreme cold set in
Workers in Buffalo, New York, on Dec. 26.
Workers in Buffalo, New York, on Dec. 26.Photographer: Joed Viera/AFP/Getty Images
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The deep freeze that blanketed most of the US in the past few days killed dozens and temporarily plunged millions into darkness. Yet the country narrowly escaped an even worse calamity as natural gas and power supplies buckled across several states, laying bare just how vulnerable the electric grid has become to a full-on catastrophe.

The storm evoked memories of deadly 2021 winter blast that caused widespread blackouts in Texas. But while that system hit a region unaccustomed to extreme cold, this one spread across the Midwest and Northeast — two areas that should be well-prepared. The fact that they weren’t highlights the flaws of a system that’s facing limited natural gas supplies and the unpredictability of solar and wind power.