By Jim Marston
Chronicle readers would be forgiven if they opened their papers last weekend and thought it was 2005. That’s because the Koch brothers-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation published an editorial that echoed the pro-coal rhetoric we heard nearly 10 years ago when then-TXU wanted to build new power plants across Texas that would burn Wyoming coal.
Sure, this weekend’s piece had a different news hook – the new Clean Power Plan that will require Texas to reduce carbon emissions from power plants like every other state. But TPPF’s conclusion was the same: better, cleaner technology is bad and coal is king. As Yogi Berra would have said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Texas is the number one carbon emitter in the U.S. and power plants, together, are the largest emitters. Our state represents close to 10 percent of the entire nation’s carbon emissions. The Clean Power Plan will simply require Texas to adhere to the rules all other states have to follow. I love Texas more than the average person, but I don’t think we should get special treatment simply because some of our energy companies doubled-down on fossil fuels. And I certainly don’t think we should rely on Wyoming coal when Texas is the nation’s energy powerhouse.
The truth is the coal industry’s doomsday rhetoric and heel dragging has hurt Texas a lot more than the Clean Power Plan will. While states across the country have been preparing for the inevitable shift to cleaner energy resources for years (New Jersey gets more energy from residential solar than Texas. New Jersey!), companies like Luminant have been spreading fear about pending blackouts if their beloved coal plants were cleaned up (Luminant, for the record, is among TPPF’s largest funders).
Despite the well-funded lobby efforts of the fossil fuel industry, Texas has made some significant clean energy investments over the years. Carbon-free investments like West Texas wind, solar, and energy efficiency, as well as lower-carbon options like natural gas, will not only cut harmful pollution, but will also provide more homegrown energy, more jobs, and lower electricity bills, and help secure water and energy resources for Texas families and businesses. If Texas continues to amplify current trends (which it was doing well before the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Clean Power Plan), the state can easily meet the proposed carbon limits.
Texas is the number one wind producer in the nation, and proud of it. Earlier this year, wind provided 39.7 percent of all electricity in the state. And in February and August 2011, Texas wind performed well above expectations while other energy sources, namely coal plants, failed in extreme cold and heat – performance that came in handy during the Polar Vortex this past winter. Thanks in large part to the new Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission lines, Texas is now doubling its use of wind energy, bringing clean, low-cost electricity to the state’s major population centers and helping attract close to $15 billion in added investment to the state.
With the right policies in place, other states will look to Texas to meet the national demand for cheap wind energy and natural gas. In fact, top gas-producing states, including Texas, are expected to see upwards of $16 billion in additional annual sales revenue between 2020 and 2030. This doesn’t sound like the energy apocalypse TPPF was predicting to me.
As in many cases, TPPF is simply the boy who cries wolf. Texas is moving forward, and its voters don’t want to go back. We understand TFFP’s fear of the future. We agree that the future does not look bright for dirty coal companies. But that’s not Texas’ problem, it’s Wyoming’s.
This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.