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Texas Energy Council’s Plan Should Be Improved To Create More Jobs and School Revenues for West Texans

Nov. 5, 2004

Texas Energy Council’s Plan Should Be Improved To Create More Jobs and School Revenues for West Texans

Alternative Energy Plan from Public Citizen Will Make Texas“Clean, Secure, and Independent”

MIDLAND/ODESSA – When the Texas Energy Planning Council unveiled its proposed state energy plan in October, council chairman Victor Carrillo said he wanted the final plan to    “increase Texas’ and America’s energy security and independence.” Carrillo, who also chairs the state Railroad Commission, said the he hoped the proposed energy plan would “keep energy revenues flowing to Texas schools and families.”

But the energy council’s plan, as proposed, will need improving to live up to Carrillo’s goal , contends Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Texas office of consumer protection group Public Citizen. The group is proposing an alternative energy plan for Texas. 

“West Texans have long been leaders in using the state’s energy resources to provide jobs and school revenue, but as our oil and gas resources become more difficult to extract, we need to develop Texas renewable resources to  assure jobs and school revenues for the future,” Smith said. “The Texas Energy Planning Council’s proposal will not make Texas more energy independent and energy secure. Our plan will.”

Smith said the council’s “Energy Contract with the People of Texas” relies too much on coal and imported liquefied natural gas (LNG), underestimates the value of solar and wind power and ignores energy efficiency as a tool to reduce energy demand — and cut energy costs — in Texas.

“The council’s plan will make Texas dependent on liquefied natural gas from foreign countries and more dependent on coal imported from Wyoming,” Smith said.  “The plan proposes to spend billions of dollars on coal-fired power plants and ship more of our energy dollars out of state and out of the country.”

Public Citizen’s alternate plan, “A Clean, Secure and Independent Energy Plan for Texas,” calls for greater development of the state’s renewable energy resources, more energy efficiency and greater reliance on electric power cogeneration and combined heating and power technologies to meet the state’s energy demand.

“The Midland/Odessa area stands to benefit greatly from the development of renewables in terms of jobs and tax revenues,” Smith said. “That’s because some of the best sites for wind power projects are just south of here. Renewable energy typically creates four times more jobs than conventional energy “

Smith said wind power projects have the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues for Texas schools. For example, getting 20 percent of the state’s power from wind power — a realistic goal — would produce $210 million in new tax revenues for schools

Gov. Rick Perry appointed the 22-member Texas Energy Planning Council in late 2003 with the charge of developing a new energy plan for the state. The council is expected to produce a final plan for the governor’s approval before the end of the year. The Texas Legislature is expected to act on the council’s recommendations after it convenes in January.

The Energy Planning Council unveiled an eight-point plan when it met Oct. 25 in Austin.   Those eight points included proposals to import liquefied natural gas into Texas from foreign countries, build more “clean coal” power plants in the state, and get more oil and gas from deep waters off the Texas Gulf Coast.  The plan also calls for the creation of a permanent Texas Energy Planning Council and the consolidation of all state energy planning under the Railroad Commission, which would be renamed the Texas Energy Commission.  The recommendations also include creating an energy education and research fund and cut the state severance tax for exploratory oil and gas drilling.

The council’s plan also calls for expansion of the state’s “Renewable Portfolio Standard” (RPS), which requires the state to obtain 2,000 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2009.   Under the council’s recommendation, the expanded RPS would require that    5,000 megawatts of electricity come from renewable sources by 2012, with an ultimate goal of 10,000 megawatts by 2020.

“The council’s call for an expanded renewable goal is a good step forward,” Smith said.   “Other states are moving more aggressively to develop their renewable energy resources. Texas will get left behind — and lose out on this growing industry’s tremendous economic impact — if our lawmakers don’t act to assure that at least 20% of our energy comes from renewables.”

Smith said the Texas Legislature also needs to require the Public Utility Commission to get new transmission lines built to areas in West Texas and the Panhandle that are the richest in wind power resources.

The failure to include energy efficiency, or energy conservation, measures among the council’s eight recommendations is a major flaw, Smith said.

“There’s no faster or cheaper way to help meet our state’s energy needs than to increase energy efficiency,” Smith said.

Public Citizen’s energy plan calls for reducing the state’s energy needs by one percent each year through measure such as doubling the state’s energy efficiency code for new buildings. During the energy council’s October meeting, Carrillo said he would consider adding a ninth recommendation regarding energy efficiency.

The planning council projects a 31 percent increase in electricity demand in Texasby 2025, from 95,000 megawatts to 124,000 megawatts. Smith said the Public Citizen plan is to meet that need with 10,000 megawatts of new renewable energy, 10,000 megawatts of cogeneration and combined heating and power and 10,000 megawatts of energy efficiency.

The Texas Energy Council is expected to consider approving its final plan when it meets Nov. 29 in Austin.

“West Texas leaders such as Tom Craddick, Buddy West, and Victor Carrillo can play a pivotal role in making sure the state’s energy plan really does make Texas energy independent and energy secure,” Smith said.