Texas Interests: Oil Pumps vs. Wind Turbines
Is Texas bigger than global warming? This seems to be a fair question lately in the midst of Texas Senate Bill (SB) 931, which “would close the book on two programs that helped fuel the state’s years-long surge in wind energy production: the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) policy, which established a state renewable energy goal, and the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) initiative, a power line program that sparked huge investments in wind energy.” (Malewitz, 2015) In fact, SB 931 seeks to not only end the two programs, but also to do it ten years ahead of scheduled time. However, it is not necessarily SB 931 that has now raised questions on Texas’ commitment towards the fight against global warming, but rather the reasoning behind its proposal in the first place.
So what was that reasoning? It could not possibly be due to the policy not working. Especially considering that Texas has become “an international renewable energy leader because of sound state policies. According to data collected by the Public Citizen Texas office, the wind energy industry has created more than 40 new businesses and about 30,000 construction jobs in 57 West Texas counties since 2001. Wind farmers also generate more than $85 million in taxes annually and provided more than $9 billion in new taxable assets in Texas in the last 14 years.” (Marquez, 2015) Not only that, but according to The Energy Collective, an online source for climate and energy information, “Texas is far and away wind power’s greatest U.S success story, with 14.1 gigawatts (GW) installed capacity at the end of 2014 — more than twice California’s second-ranked 5.9GW. A growth largely due to the state’s RPS, adopted in 1999 with a 2GW by 2009 goal, then expanded in 2005 to include 5.8GW by 2015 and 10GW by 2025 targets. Clearly Texas’ RPS worked — it reached 10GW in early 2010, now has roughly 13GW total renewables capacity, and has gotten up to 25 percent of its total electricity from wind” (Marcacci, 2015)
Well if the reasoning was not due to lack of success then perhaps it was because bats and birds were losing their lives in Texas wind farms? Or perhaps it because the massive wind turbines were just too much of an eye sore for Texas highways? No. It was not for any of these reasons. Instead, according to Republican Senator Troy Fraser, it was because the “mission has been accomplished. The renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has been sitting on the books and not being used for 10 years, ‘thus rendering it’ an unneeded law. ‘Therefore,’ it is time to declare victory and take it off the books, ‘along’ with CREZ.” (Trabish, 2015)
Mission accomplished? Has global warming been solved? Did the success from Texas’ RPS policy suddenly cause Texas to stop being a contributor to global warming? Or perhaps the actual mission of the RPS policy was to create some jobs and reach 13GW total renewables capacity? The answer to these questions are of course no, no, and who knows, which begs the question of what Texas’ mission was. We know that the intended purpose and mission of the RPS policy is to support renewable energy, and arouse more support throughout the nation. We know that the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect the environment. What we apparently do not know is Texas’ commitment to renewable energy and the protection of the environment.
Perhaps it was all about everything being bigger in Texas. This seems to be a plausible justification for Texas suddenly declaring victory and celebrating an accomplished mission. Not to mention the fact that it goes perfectly with one of the most known Texas slogans, “everything’s bigger in Texas!” After all, every statistic out there will show that Texas leads the way in wind energy. They could even quite possibly be considered the poster state for a successful RPS policy. It would not even matter that they are now voting to dump it. Their policy, while in affect, worked better than anticipated. In fact, it worked so well that they have met their goals ten years earlier than expected. So there seems to be no reason to deny Texas their victory in leading the way up to this point. Which actually only makes it even more mysterious as to why they want to stop championing the effectiveness of sound RPS policies. Especially when they may not be as successful in their contribution to saving our planet as they think they are.
Was Texas successful enough to declare “victory” and “end of mission”? Perhaps this could be easier answered by taking a look at other success stories in Texas, such as in fossil fuels. In an article written by James E. Parker-Flynn, entitled A Race To The Middle In Energy Policy, the author shows how Texas’ success in wind energy could be erased by their added success in fossil fuels when he states that “Texas produces the most natural gas and crude oil of any state, but also has adopted an aggressive RPS and leads the nation in wind energy generation. Texas’ use of wind energy in state reduces ‘Greenhouse Gas’ (GHG) emissions, but Texas oil and natural gas — whether burned in state or exported — increases GHG emissions…The gains from energy policies that encourage renewable energy generation will be offset or overwhelmed by competing or concurrent desires to exploit fossil fuel resources like natural gas, coal, and oil.” (Parker-Flynn, 2015) Thus, there may not be room for celebration yet Texas. Everything may not be bigger in Texas, but Texas certainly is big in many ways. According to Parker-Flynn, “Texas has more fossil fuel reserves and more renewable energy potential than any other state…Texas produces more electricity from wind energy than any other state…Texas leads the nation in both oil and natural gas production…Texas is the largest refiner of oil…Texas is one of the leading exporters of oil products to foreign countries…Texas leads the nation in GHG emissions…And, Texas is at a big risk of substantial damages from climate change.” (Parker-Flynn, 2015) Thus implying that perhaps Texas is not bigger than global warming. Therefore, despite all its seeming bragging rights, perhaps it would behoove Texas to get a little smaller on the fossil fuel side, and a lot bigger on the renewable energy side.
Let us face it. There is no one state or nation that is bigger than global warming. If our planet is to survive, along with us, it must take a joint effort throughout the nations. This means that leaders in this effort must step forward as ambassadors of the planet. Texas has shown itself capable of being one of those necessary leaders. Their surge towards the top in wind energy use has proven the difference that new technology aimed at renewable energy can make. Thus, instead of closing the door and having victory celebrations, Texas should be planning their next set of Renewable Portfolio Standard policies. After all, in the fight against global warming, would not the better celebration be the one that is thrown because you can start your next step towards a greener future ten years earlier? Rather than the celebration over being able to not make renewable energy a mandate anymore even though our planet is still heading towards the same heated future, without much variance in speed. Sure we may not be heading towards it as fast, but it is still fast enough to warrant more efforts and less celebrations. The mission is far from complete Texas!
Malewitz, J. (2015, April 14). Senate Votes to End Renewable Energy Programs. Retrieved from The Texas Tribune: http://www.texastribune.org/2015/04/14/senate-votes-end-renewable-energy-programs/
Marcacci, S. (2015, April 2). Renewable Portfolio Standards Under Attack Across America. Retrieved from The Energy Collective: http://www.theenergycollective.com/silviomarcacci/2212276/renewable-portfolio-standards-under-attack-across-america
Marquez, D. (2015, April 25). Texas Senate bill affecting incentives causing concern in local wind industry. Retrieved from Lubbock Avalanche Journal: http://lubbockonline.com/filed-online/2015-04-25/texas-senate-bill-affecting-incentives-causing-concern-local-wind-industry#.Va2A8PkYOrY
Parker-Flynn, J. E. (2015). A Race To The Middle In Energy. Sustainable Development Law & Policy Vol. 15 Issue 1 , 4–55.
Trabish, H. K. (2015, April 22). ‘Mission accomplished?’ Inside the battle over Texas renewable energy incentives . Retrieved from UtilityDive: http://www.utilitydive.com/news/mission-accomplished-inside-the-battle-over-texas-renewable-energy-incen/389444/