CPS and San Antonio: You can’t both be right…

Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current broke this story a few days back and I just feel like we have to comment:

As Washington strains under the weight of industry and environmental lobbyists seeking to influence the outcome of what would be our first national climate bill, CPS Energy has been quietly working the angles on Capitol Hill to keep the coal power the city has come to rely on cheap for consumers in the short term. So-called “cheap” power is the mandate the utility operates under, after all.

Too bad that mandate is now at odds with the survival of the earth as we know it and, quite possibly, our survival as a city and a nation.

Responding to an Open Records request submitted by the Current, a CPS Energy legal staffer wrote that the City-owned utility has spent $91,700 lobbying in the past year “in the attempt to influence U.S. climate policy.”

According to Zandra Pulis, senior legal counsel at CPS, the utility has also spent about $67,657 in membership dues to the Climate Policy Group, an industry group it joined in September of 2006 that lobbies Congress against limiting carbon emissions under cap-and-trade legislation. An effort that, to this point, has been remarkably successful.

All told, CPS has spent $2.56 million on lobbyists (since 1999) working the statehouse and the Capitol, according to Pulis.

That’s right — CPS has spent millions of YOUR dollars on lobbying, much of which has gone to try to argue climate change isn’t happening.

Look, I understand that CPS has a mission to produce inexpensive electricity for San Antonio residents and business.  That’s a good thing.  But the facts are these:

1- Climate change is happening.  But even if it wasn’t, everything we need to do to solve it is something that we would want to be to doing anyway.  We need to start living with the fact that political consensus has developed in Washington.  Sooner or later, we’re going to have to  start paying for our greenhouse gas pollution, so we’d better start figuring out how to get our energy from non-polluting sources.

2- If your mission is to deliver cheap electricity, why are you investing the in the boondoggle we call the South Texas Project?  Most recent predictions show construction costs to be over 17 billion dollars— before we even produce one kilowatt!!!  This means more expensive electricity for everyone, including the people who will be shouting from the sidelines: We Told You So.

3- CPS Customers who bought into the green Windtricity program last summer paid LOWER rates than their neighbors with a normal energy portfolio.  Let’s face it, the cost of renewables is going down and the price of fossil fuels keep going up!

The city as a whole seems to be choosing the right course: the Mission Verde initiative will make San Antonio a green capital, and the combined corridor between Austin and San Antonio will make Central Texas one of the best places to live because of its eco-friendliness (it’s already the best place to live on the planet anyway, but that’s besides the point!)

So, CPS, if we have really expensive forms of electricity like nuclear and other forms which are increasing in price, and we have other forms like wind and solar whose price keeps going down, which energy future do we choose?  San Antonio’s democratically elected officials think one thing (climate change real, invest in green jobs, etc) but the utility thinks another (climate change=not real, burn more coal, nuke more uranium).  One of these views accurately reflects the city of San Antonio.  The other doesn’t.

Which is it?

(I kind of feel like David Spade in “Tommy Boy” — “You say it’s 5 miles, but it’s not here on the map, and you’re really smart…. so…..”)

The election next month will be a referendum.  If pro-green growth candidates win across the board (and by my estimation they will), it will be time for CPS to join the 21st century with the rest of us and stop spending our money on whacko climate lobbyists.