State Energy Plan: Dependent and Dirty

The Texas Energy Policy Council goes backward into the energy future

The Texas Energy Planning Council, a 22-member body appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, met Monday to consider approving a final energy plan for the state. Clean energy advocates are pushing for increases to the proposed Renewable Portfolio Standard, a measure mandating the amount of energy generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar, or biomass, and less use of fossil fuels like liquified natural gas and coal. The council's recommended RPS has a 5% renewable standard by 2015 and roughly 10% by 2025, well shy of the 10% by 2015, 20% by 2020 goal set by a coalition of environmental and consumer groups. "At issue is whether we want a state energy plan that utilizes our tremendous renewable energy resources, or one that makes us dependent on energy from other states and other countries," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office and a major proponent of a reformed RPS.

Council Chairman Victor Carrillo, who also chairs the Railroad Commission, said he wanted the final plan to "increase Texas' and America's energy security and independence." But TEPC recommendations rely heavily on imported liquefied natural gas, and cite building more "clean coal" power plants in the state while acquiring more oil and gas from the deep waters off the Texas Gulf Coast.

Smitty argues that the council's proposed plan depends too heavily on imported and polluting fuel sources, downplays the value of solar and wind power, and underemphasizes energy efficiency as a tool to reduce demand. The TEPC increased the scope of the Public Utility Commission efficiency program and continued energy efficiency funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, two valuable programs. But despite pressure from advocates, TEPC declined to increase efficiency measures in the building codes.

"Why are we choosing to purchase billions of dollars of foreign LNG instead of investing in local resources and creating local jobs when we have safe and economic energy resources here in Texas?" asked Anne Johnson of Public Citizen. "Data from the Renewable Energy Policy Project shows that a substantial renewable energy policy could lead to as many as 60,000 new jobs in Texas." Johnson also noted that Nigeria, a major supplier of LNG to the U.S., was one of few countries where anti-U.S. demonstrations occurred following 9/11. Earlier this month, Halliburton and three corporate partners admitted making $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in connection with an LNG plant contract. "It is just a bad decision, both economically and for security reasons, to remain dependent or become even more dependent on foreign sources of fuel," Johnson said. The TEPC meets again in mid-December before sending recommendations to Gov. Perry Dec. 31. Those interested in taking action can send faxes to the TEPC and pertinent House and Senate committees from www.renewabletexas.org/action.html.

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