Texas Still At Forefront of Energy Picture
Since the earliest days of the Spindletop strike in 1901, America has turned to Texas time and again for its energy needs. With many of the world's energy capitals in turmoil, the nation can continue to depend on the Lone Star State in the ongoing quest for energy independence.
It just might not be the Texas America's used to seeing.
While oil and other so-called "traditional" forms of energy remain a vitally important part of our economy, Texas has taken the national lead in pursuing a diverse portfolio of energy sources, including renewable.
If you're looking for a particularly symbolic illustration of the new reality of Texas energy, you might want to travel to a Valero Refinery not too far outside Amarillo. There, Valero is drawing power for its refining operations directly from the wind that the West Texas plains are so well known for.
This wind farm represents only a small fraction of the wind power generated statewide, as Texas generates more wind power than any other state, and all but five other countries.
This might be surprising to some people, but it really shouldn't be. Texas has long been committed to diversifying our energy portfolio by exploring next-generation energy sources, including solar, biofuels, clean coal and more.
In 2005, I signed legislation that set the then-lofty goals of reaching 5,880 megawatts of renewable production capacity by 2015, and 10,000 megawatts by 2025. In true Texas style, we've already hit both marks, and we're continuing to add capacity and connect our newer renewable power generators to the statewide grid.
The reasons for our success aren't too complicated. Instead of strangling energy suppliers with massive amounts of bureaucratic red tape, imposing crippling mandates and assessing massive fines, we have fostered an environment that encourages the development and implementation of cleaner, renewable energy. Then we let private industry do what private industry does best: innovate.
That sort of innovative spirit came into play recently in our natural gas shale fields throughout the state.
Trapped far beneath Texas, these shale fields hold enough natural gas to power our state for decades, and no fine or mandate would do much to free it. Instead, we gave energy suppliers the opportunity to let their best and brightest meet the challenge head-on, and the safe and effective drilling techniques they created have revolutionized the industry. Energy experts described these techniques as one of the biggest innovations of this century.
This innovation also significantly expanded our supplies of natural gas, bringing electricity prices down across the state.
We've also used state incentives, like the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, to make investments in companies that produce solar and biomass energy. The reward is two-fold - not only do we promote renewable energy, we ensure the jobs created by these pioneers remain here in Texas, with Texans reaping the rewards.
We've taken an "all of the above" approach to diversifying our energy portfolio, and that includes further development of nuclear energy.
Recent events in Japan have reinforced the need to ensure appropriate safety measures are taken to mitigate risks associated with nuclear energy production, however, nuclear plants continue to operate safely and currently provide nearly 5,000 megawatts of clean energy to Texas communities.
While we must remain aware of the unique demands of this type of energy, next-generation nuclear holds major promise in meeting the energy needs of Texans and should continue to be part of our energy mix.
Perhaps the most telling success of our "all of the above" energy policies is the continuing improvement of the environment in Texas. Between 2000 and 2009, we reduced statewide ozone levels by 27 percent, more than any other state. We also cut NOx emissions by 53 percent, all with a rapidly-growing population and while fostering strong industrial and manufacturing industries in our state economy.
These results can't be accomplished by blunt force of government fiat, reflecting a unilateral approach to developing new sources of energy. The future will be powered by competition and cooperation, the continued and much-needed contribution of traditional energy sources, along with a new emphasis on rapidly developing new and renewable sources of power.
Texas has consistently proven, when it comes to energy, "all of the above" beats "one size fits all" every time.
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