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Posts Tagged ‘energy policy’

Check out our editorial in the Round Rock Leader, in response to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s piece “Cap and Trade is No Good For Texas”:

A rebuttal to Sen. Hutchison’s piece concerning Cap and Trade policies

By ANDY WILSON

Special to the Leader

United States Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison takes a head-in-the-hot-sand approach to climate change that will get Texas burned and drive tens of thousands of new jobs elsewhere (“Cap and Trade is No Good For Texas,” Aug. 27 Leader).

She misses the mark on energy policy, using discredited industry statistics to drum up fear about a Cap and Trade policy that represents just a small portion of the initiatives proposed in the energy bill that passed the House of Representatives in July.

She fails to acknowledge that the bill includes provisions for renewable energy and energy efficiency – the real solutions to climate change.

Hutchison’s solution is no solution at all: more oil, more coal and more nuclear, with absolutely no coherent policy on how to lower energy costs and find alternatives to dwindling resources.

While America is faced with the worst economic crisis in generations, Sen. Hutchison is turning away opportunities to create new jobs while slavishly clinging to the talking points of the oil industry.

Families are hurting from high energy prices.

The answer lies in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, which have proven to save Texans money.

Even The Wall Street Journal reports that “Wind Power Makes Electricity Cheaper in Texas,” and families that have received energy efficiency retrofits from their electric utility save money every month.

In the dieting world, low-calorie treats never taste as good as their fatty counterparts, but in the energy efficiency world, both light bulbs burn just as brightly. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

If Sen. Hutchison is as worried about job loss as she professes, she should work to improve the anemic renewable energy and efficiency goals in the bill.

Texas, as the leader in wind power and home to a burgeoning solar industry, would stand to gain 153,000 of new green jobs by passing a strengthened and stream-lined bill.

Texas already has employed more than 9,000 individuals to build our current crop of wind turbines, representing just a drop in the bucket in terms of the green jobs that national clean energy policies could bring to our state.

Big polluters are trying to scare people with exaggerated costs of addressing climate change.

Independent analyses from the EPA and CBO show the actual price to Americans to be less than a postage stamp a day.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that strong action on climate change, including Cap and Trade, would save Texas families an average of $980 a year.

Opponents are concerned that Texas refineries are going to be hurt by this bill, but the House-passed bill provides more than $2 billion in free carbon credits to refiners.

How is about $2 billion in handouts to corporations not enough?

The oil industry is floating a red herring argument about sending competition overseas.

The U.S. Department of Energy projects that gasoline imports will decrease under the climate bill due to slowing demand and fuel economy improvements.

Sen. Hutchison has received more than $2.1 million in campaign contributions from the oil industry during her Senate career, so her remarks may have more to do with giving back to an industry that, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, has been the largest single source of financing for her Senate campaigns.

If Sen. Hutchison really wants to do what’s right for Texas, she should strengthen the climate bill, rather than shoot it down.

If she is worried about price impacts on Texas families, she should strengthen consumer protections and strip out the billion-dollar in-dustry giveaways.

And if she’s concerned about Texas’ financial well being, she should remember that Texas above all else is an energy state – which means that we must have a future in clean, renewable energy as well.

But just saying “no” to a new energy bill, “no” to new jobs and “no” to new industries is “no good for Texas.”

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The booming wind energy industry in Texas didn’t just pop up over night — it was a result of years of research, advocacy, and policy work.  Ever wondered how it all happened?  Smitty, the director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office, has a story to tell — check it out!

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Seeing as we are just at the beginning of the history of wind, it is a story that is constantly evolving.  Coastal wind projects have been developed in Texas recently (look for a post on this very topic soon!).  Just this week, the Abilene Reporter News ran an article about a local professor and director of the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech that testified on a bill in Congress that would pump $200 million annually into research and development for wind power.  While wind is of course a viable industry in its current stages, further R&D will allow it to provide an even larger portion of our total electricity needs, operate more efficiently, and be an even cheaper and more reliable form of energy.

While you’re at it, check out this recent article from the Guardian about the “furious search for practical, affordable electricity storage” so that excess energy produced when the wind is blowing but no one’s lights are on can be socked away and used when we need it most.

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Last week San Antonio’s CPS released their cost estimate for the proposed South Texas Project Nuclear Expansion, and we found their numbers naive optimistic ignored history wanting.  To find out why, check out this Guest Column, printed in today’s San Antonio Express-News, from Public Citizen’s own Energy Policy Analyst Matthew Johnson.

Matthew Johnson: Why not cheaper, safer sources of energy?

Matthew Johnson: Why not cheaper, safer sources of energy?

Nuclear reactors too expensive

By Matthew Johnson – Express-News Guest Voices

CPS Energy announced its cost estimate for two more nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project near Bay City last week. The $13-billion price tag is the latest estimate in a sustained and systemic low-balling by utilities wishing to receive government subsidies.

CPS’ partner, NRG Energy, recently pegged the cost of units 3 and 4 at $10 billion, a figure that has jumped nearly 50 percent from its original estimate of $5.4 billion.

Other analyses, however, have estimated the cost of two new reactors to be nearly 100 percent higher than the CPS estimate. Former Texas Office of Public Utility Counsel official Clarence Johnson recently estimated the cost of STP expansion to be $20 billion to $22 billion, while nuclear engineer and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Dr. Arjun Makhijani estimated a cost of up to $17.5 billion in 2008.

A new study by Mark Cooper, of the Vermont Law School, analyzed numerous cost estimates of the so-called nuclear renaissance beginning around 2001. He discovered that early estimates of new nuclear reactors were made predominantly by industry and academics and were optimistic and eager to rejuvenate the industry.

Since then, utilities’ estimates have shown similar wishful thinking, but continue to rise. Independent analysts and Wall Street, Cooper shows, offer the most realistic estimates that are much higher.

The history of the STP expansion effort follows this pattern. CPS and NRG have been attempting to gain support in federal, state and city government since they submitted their application to build two new reactors to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2007.

Wall Street estimates also place a similar and continuously rising price tag on new reactors. The bond-rating agency Moody’s predicted $5,000-6,000 per kilowatt for new reactors almost two years ago, which translates to $16.2 billion for STP expansion, and recently indicated that it could downgrade bond ratings on utilities constructing new nuclear reactors.

The federal government established an $18.5 billion subsidy to back loans taken out to construct new reactors. STP expansion advocates brag about being on the short list for part of these loan guarantees, but proponents and opponents agree that more reactors won’t be built if the feds don’t pony up the dough.

The reason is simple. Investors are squeamish to lend money for projects with such a high risk of defaulting on repayments. Delay and cost overruns increase risk. STP’s original reactors took eight years longer than planned to complete and costs soared six times over original estimates.

CPS Energy has faster and cheaper alternatives. Their recent announcement on the 27 megawatt solar plant in West Texas, the Mission Verde plan to develop 250 megawatts of solar and new wind contracts plus their goal to save 771 megawatts through energy efficiency by 2020 are shining examples of the path they should focus on to keep rates stable and low in the future. This path also creates more local jobs.

City Council will soon have to decide on San Antonio’s involvement in new reactors. It must vote no on nuclear to protect San Antonians from bearing the overwhelming economic burden of building costly, dangerous and unnecessary nuclear reactors.

Matthew Johnson is an energy policy analyst for Public Citizen’s Texas office.

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