Irina Slav, 30 June 2021
The Texas Freeze was one of those unprecedented events that have the potential to upend the way things are done, in this case, in power utilities. The crisis, which saw natural gas prices rise from two-figure to four-figure numbers, prompted an in-depth look at Texas’s grid and electricity market, and measures to ensure it never happened again. Now, gas prices are on the rise again, and many of the February bills have not been paid yet. Disgruntlement is building up across the swathe of states affected by the freezing cold spell in February. In California, people are being warned their bills are going to rise higher.
“I cannot for the life of me understand how we saw it go from $2 to $1,200 and back down to $2 in the span of the week; that’s not real,” Garry Mize, the Republican chairman of the utilities committee in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives, said recently, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
Mize was referring to the spike in natural gas prices during the Texas Freeze. He also said, “It’s hard on a political level because you’d like to believe that free markets work all the time.”
Indeed, free markets work for the purposes for which they were created. The fact that the way they work is not always in tune with what one group or another wants is an entirely different matter. Still, it’s understandable that there have been calls for greater federal oversight of states’ electricity systems to avoid a repeat of the crisis, which, in Oklahoma alone, caused electricity bills to swell by as much as $5 billion for the week it lasted, according to the WSJ.