Air Pollution and Global Warming Are Texas-Sized Problems

July 4, 2000

Air Pollution and Global Warming Are Texas-Sized Problems

Texas Solutions Mean Texas-Sized Savings and New Jobs; Groups File Formal Rulemaking Petition Asking Bush Administration to Adopt Policies to Cut Air Pollution and Global Warming, Save Money and Create Jobs

“Drive to Cool It” Global Warming Tour in 70 mpg Car

As Texans celebrate the fourth of July, many Texans will be seeing drier rivers and lakes some believe are linked to global warming. Statewide environmental leaders formally petitioned the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) to begin monitoring global warming emissions and to come up with a plan to reduce those emissions to reduce the damages. In order to demonstrate that the solutions to global warming are ready to roll, they are starting a “Drive to Cool It” featuring a hybrid gas/electric car that EPA rates at 70 miles per gallon.

“Texas leads the nation in emission of the gases causing global warming and is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The good news is that solutions to reduce global warming can save Texans money, create jobs and make industry more efficient. A study earlier this year showed that adoption of policies to encourage cooler cars, cooler homes, cooler industry and cooler power would create 84,000 new jobs and result in net savings of $70 billion for the state. While the technological solutions to reduce global warming and ensure continued prosperity are readily available, the political will to take such steps is absent in Texas,” said Tom Smitty Smith, director of Public Citizen s Texas office.

“Almost ten years ago, Texas legislators who served on a special interim committee on the Greenhouse Effect predicted ‘more radical swings in weather conditions’ due to global warming. In particular, they foresaw increased droughts, more severe flooding, threats to our fisheries and more serious heat spells for our state. Today, the state is experiencing its fourth drought in five years; our lakes are at low levels; our shrimp fisheries are in trouble; and July of 1998 recorded the warmest average minimum temperature for any month on record. Ten of the last eleven years have been the hottest on record. Although the Legislature granted authority to the TNRCC to control emissions of global warming gases in 1991, the TNRCC has taken no steps do so.” Smith noted.

“We are starting our drive in front of Governor Bush s office. The Governor has said he believes that global warming is occurring, but doesn t believe the Kyoto treaty will solve the problem. He loves to talk about how local leadership and strong market incentives can solve our environmental problems but has done nothing to solve this problem,” Smith said.

?Groups take action

“The TNRCC was given specific authority by the Legislature to control air contaminants as necessary to protect against climatic changes, including global warming (Health and Safety Code Chapter 382.0205). The state has yet to undertake studies on sources, effects, or solutions to climate change. Public Citizen, SEED, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and Texas Campaign for the Environment have submitted a formal rulemaking petition with the TNRCC to begin monitoring carbon and methane the two most common gases responsible for global warming and to develop a plan to reduce those emissions. The Commission will have 60 days to decide whether to proceed with adoption of these rules,” said Kelly Haragan, an attorney for the group. “This is the first in a series of petitions for rule changes that the group plans to submit this summer. Other petitions will call for rules on cleaner cars, more energy efficient homes and appliances and tax breaks for industries that build new combined heat and power plants.

“Some may ask why don t we wait for the federal government to act? Texas is the leading emitter of global warming gases among the states, and if we were a nation would be the seventh largest source of emissions. Thirty-five states have adopted rules requiring industries to report carbon dioxide emissions, and 26 states are developing plans to reduce their emissions. If we don t plan ahead, Texas will be left high and dry when other states are prepared,” Haragan continued.

“Drive to Cool It”

“Global Warming is a Texas-sized problem. As Texas families look to cool off in the water this holiday weekend, many will see shallower rivers, lower lakes and fewer fish – all of which are symptoms of global warming”, said Jamie Mitchell, outreach director for Public Citizen. “In addition, scientists predict hotter temperatures, more heat-related deaths, poorer crops and more insects as global warming worsens.”

“We are embarking on a Texas sized “Drive to Cool It” tour to discuss Texas-sized solutions to global warming in Texas and how these solutions can help our economy,” Mitchell said. “Our cars trucks and the refineries that produce our gasoline are the largest sources of the gases causing global warming. That s why were highlighting a hybrid gas/electric car in our tour.This car is a perfect example of how you can save money and reduce pollution. Without sacrificing convenience, the vehicle emits only about a quarter of the global warming gases that a conventional car does, and we cut our gas bill by more than half. The EPA rating for this car is over 70 miles per gallon and is averaging over 50 miles per gallon in real-life, Texas-style driving with hot days, high speeds and with the air conditioner blasting away. The money we save on gas we can spend at the restaurants, hotels and dancehalls along the way. Today these cars aren t shown when someone comes into the showroom because we don t require them to sell advanced technology vehicles. We will be proposing rules in the near future to assure that cooler cars are shown, sold, and serviced in Texas.

“The car is powered by a 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder gasoline engine that is paired with a 10-kilowatt electric motor. The gas engine powers the car most of the time, while the high-torque electric motor kicks in when more punch is needed. The battery for the electric engine is constantly recharged by forward motion and braking, and the car can be refueled at any normal gas station,” Mitchell said.

“We can put Texans to work making the cars and fuels of tomorrow. The cars most likely to reduce global warming pollution while providing the same convenience of gasoline-powered cars are hybrid gas/electric vehicles, or cars powered by methanol fuel cells. Texas is already a leader in manufacturing batteries, fuel cells and cleaner fuels like methanol, so the proliferation of these technologies will help the Texas economy,” Mitchell said.

?”While George Bush is touring the country, we will be driving this cleaner car down to Galveston and other coastal cities, where rising sea levels are contributing to beach erosion, warmer sea temperatures threaten the fisheries, and tropical storms are becoming increasingly common,” said Mitchell. “After we tour the Texas coast, we will visit the drought-stricken areas of West Texas and the High Plains, where severe weather and water shortages are a way of life. Once Texans see that reducing global warming pollution can save them money on their gasoline and electric bills, I think they will also demand that action be taken to encourage the use of clean, cool modern technology.”

?”If Texas acts now, we can have a Texas plan for a Texas problem. If we wait, we run the risk of Washington telling us what we have to do,” said Jenevieve Maerker of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition. “The good news is that these steps also reduce other types of pollution. Adoption of a set of simple policies could reduce CO2 emissions by 14 percent; NOx by 33 percent; SO2 by 65 percent; VOCs by 16 percent; and fine particles or soot by 16 percent. Bush is fond of talking about local control, but his appointees have failed to take any steps to simply monitor, much less control, global warming pollution in Texas. By filing these rules, we are asking the governor and his staff to hit a home run for Texas. If Texans want to join our drive for a cooler Texas they can go to the Seedcoalition.org web site or call 800-580-8845 to send a message to the Governor and the TNRCC. Our children s future depends on the actions we take now.”

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Visit other helpful Web sites:

            www.seedcoalition.org – Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Good site on air pollution problems and policy in Texas.

            www.scorecard.org Information on pollution and emissions in your community by zip code.

            www.hotearth.net Information on global warming the problem and the solutions.

            www.climatehotmap.org Local consequences of global warming.

            www.epa.gov/ttn/rto/areas/index.htm Detailed emissions inventories for your state and county, maps of major pollution sources, vehicle registrations, etc.

            www.treia.org Web site for the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association.