Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Support for Sustainable Energy

By Governor Rick Perry
Friday, September 08, 2006  •  Editorial

As governor, I must find a balance between our economic and energy needs and our environmental standards.  Texas is the largest producer and user of energy in the country.   Our current population exceeds 22 million and is expected to double by 2050, and energy demand is forecast to grow 35 percent by 2025. To meet these growing demands, Texas must begin building additional energy generation now.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has stated that by 2008 Texas’ electric reserve margins will fall below acceptable levels.  Such a drop will threaten the reliability of electric service during times of peak demand and would likely result in the power blackouts that Californians have endured. 

We can’t bury our head in the sand when it comes to building additional energy capacity and take the same attitude that some cities took toward building highways in the last 25 years, which was, “if we don’t build it, they won’t come.”  They came anyway, and traffic is a mess and so will our electric grid be if we don’t build additional generation capacity.  And I, for one, don’t want to tell Texans to ration air conditioning anymore than I want to tell them they can only drive certain days of the week.

In October, 2005 I issued an executive order to expedite the administrative hearing process for power generating plant permits.  This order maintains every current environmental standard, so the proposed TXU coal plants won’t be approved unless they are safe for our air.

Recent criticisms of the TXU proposal ignore two important facts: Texas has the cleanest burning coal plants in the country and TXU’s proposal to build 11 new coal-fired power plants includes a commitment to reduce overall emissions by 20 percent.  That means additional capacity with a net reduction in emissions.  And the TXU plants are important to diversifying our energy supply so Texans do not face rate shock every time natural gas prices spike up.

In the face of these facts, opponents have switched their argument to global warming concerns.  There is great debate in the scientific community about whether we are experiencing manmade global warming.  I am not a scientist, but this I will say: I will not impose stricter sanctions on carbon dioxide emissions when the federal government does not even recognize it as a pollutant, and when setting standards that are more punitive than almost every other state and nation would cause economic ruin for the people of Texas. 

As of 2001, Texas contributed about 10 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gases despite being home to the most coal fired plants, 25 percent of the nation’s gasoline refineries and a large percentage of the nation’s petrochemical production. 

We are doing our part to address CO2 emissions.  Texas leads the nation in wind energy production and we are aggressively pursuing the FutureGen project to create the world’s first near-zero emissions coal fired power plant. 

The fact is there is an extreme element of the environmental community that opposes additional energy capacity no matter what.  They are opposed to coal plants, shifting the focus of their protests from air emissions to global warming.  They are opposed to nuclear power because they are concerned about the storage issues.  And many are opposed to wind energy because the turbines disrupt the skyline and the migratory bird flight pattern.  I would argue they want to return us to the era of horse and buggy except they would probably complain about the methane gas from horse manure, too.

Meanwhile, as they stall Texas continues to grow.  Our population is booming, our electricity demand is growing, and our future is at stake.  I reduced the timetable for air permits because bureaucracy should not hinder progress.  And I came out in support of the TXU investment because not only does it provide needed power, it reduces air emissions by 20 percent.  That is the right balance for our future.

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