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In February 2021, more than 4 million homes and businesses lost power after severe winter storms swept across Texas.

In the cold, electricity demand spiked, and some power sources failed. To keep the whole system from going down, grid operators implemented blackouts. 

People of color experienced a disproportionate share of the power outages, according to research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“There is a sense that some of these natural disasters affect everyone equally. And the truth is that we’re finding that, at least in the case of Texas, that was really not the case,” says Juan Pablo Carvallo.

Carvallo and his team analyzed satellite images of nighttime lights to learn which communities lost power. They correlated this information with demographic data about each neighborhood.  

They found that areas with high minority populations were about three times as likely to have experienced a blackout than majority white areas. The disparities were far more closely linked to race than income.

Carvallo did not investigate the specific causes of the disparity.

“Our research was aimed at diagnosing what had happened,” he says.

So he says more studies are needed to understand how to prevent this inequity as climate change causes more extreme weather.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media