Happy Earth Day Op-Ed

earthdayFor your Earth Day enjoyment, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense have written a joint Op-Ed that has been published in both the Austin American Statesman & the Houston Chronicle.  So on this day of celebration, Let’s Begin a Better Future Now and Enact Energy Laws to Clear Air, Create Jobs!

Check it out:

Texas citizens get it.

More of us than ever are mindful of switching off lights, weatherizing our homes and doing all that we can to save energy. State legislators can get it too. This session, they have an opportunity and responsibility to save us even more money on our electricity bills, create thousands of green jobs and reduce pollution across the state. Our representatives now have less than six weeks to pass the best of nearly 100 bills that have been introduced on clean power and green jobs. These energy efficiency and renewable energy bills set the stage for rebuilding, repowering and renewing our state’s economy during tough times. They will build a sustainable future for Texas.

The energy efficiency bills contain plans for helping Texas families by creating jobs while reducing consumption of electricity in our homes and buildings. When our homes and buildings are well-insulated and our appliances more efficient, we don’t need to burn wasteful and damaging amounts of dirty fossil fuels for electricity.

An additional benefit to creating Texas’ new clean energy economy is that we can clean up our air and address climate change at the same time. As we provide new jobs installing clean energy technologies, we can decrease the public health risks and costs associated with the impacts of burning coal.

Texas citizens began rising to the call for statewide energy efficiency when we voted with our consciences and our pocketbooks, replacing millions of our hot-burning, incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. Clearly, we were up to the challenge then and believe now that all of us can do more to help the Lone Star State.

For example, utilities can set more aggressive energy efficiency goals and put programs into place that will reduce the need to use so much electricity. The bills currently being considered in the Legislature require utilities to expand energy efficiency programs to meet 1 percent of peak electricity demand by the end of 2015 and 2 percent of peak electricity demand by 2020. While these goals may seem modest, meeting them would mean saving 1,176 megawatts of electricity – as much power as could be generated from two coal-fired power plants.

Utilities can also provide home energy audits that tell us how to increase our efficiency. Based on those audits, we can caulk or replace leaky windows, insulate our attics, repair our duct work, and install programmable thermostats, which allow us to preselect when we use our air conditioners, heaters and water heaters.

Cities can also help the energy efficiency cause by providing some up-front financing for energy-saving improvements. In addition, Texas will soon receive $327 million of federal stimulus funds for weatherization through the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs with reporting requirements on green job creation, energy savings and pollution reduction through the use of these funds.

These programs are good for Texas families. They’re good for the environment and they’re good for the economy. Study after study – including a report completed in December 2008 by the Public Utility Commission of Texas – shows that Texas can reduce its peak electricity demand and growth in electricity by 23 percent by implementing a variety of energy efficiency measures. The PUC study also found that every dollar spent by Texas on energy efficiency has a three-to-one payback.

But we need action now by Texas legislators to achieve energy efficiency’s full potential to meet our state’s energy challenges. This Legislature can and should continue the important work begun last session, when now-Speaker of the House Joe Straus led energy efficiency legislation.

Energy efficiency is the cheapest, quickest and cleanest way for Texas to meet its power needs. The Texas legislators who are championing these bills this session should be thanked for paving the way for a cleaner, sustainable future. We now call on all of our state legislators to swiftly move these bills out of committees and through floor debates to begin our sustainable future.

Kramer is director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club; Marston is director of the Texas regional offices of Environmental Defense Fund; and Smith is director of the Texas office of Public Citizen.