Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Closer Look at the Coal Plants Reveals Something Unsettling, Irresponsible

Much has been said, good and bad, about the Coal Plants this session. "Texas currently face a looming shortfall in needed electricity supply," claims Curt Seidlits, in the letter that prefaces TXU's several hundred page lobby binder. "For Texas to retain our economic vigor, national security, and environmental health, we must continue to invest in clean energy solutions," counters an info sheet from Alliance for a Clean Texas, a group of the state's premier environmental lobby groups. What is this debate really about? Economic engines, environmental health, or the proper use of taxpayer dollars?

TXU's arguments for their 11 of the 19 total proposed coal-fired units is the need to accommodate new growth in Texas. However, looking at the facts and the changing national political scene, one must question whether this is truly the case.

The numbers in TXU's binder are easy to manipulate. "Peak demand" is subjective, and it's obvious that Sens. Fraser and Eltife have an increasing short attention span for TXU's lobbyists. After all, ERCOT claims that we'll have energy shortfall in 2008 based on current energy suppliers, and the earliest the coal plants would come up is 2009 by TXU's projections, even though it may actually be closer to 2011.

Something still rubbed me the wrong way about these plans until Steve Susman, a lawyer suing TXU pro bono, said something last night at Waco's Convention Center: that TXU is rushing to build the coal plants because of the very real prospect of a cap-and-trade incentive program. Cap-and-trade would provide financial incentives to a company that emits carbon dioxide into the air. However, carbon dioxide is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Something clicked.

The national political scene is currently changing. November's elections shocked many, and TXU was probably no exception. Democratic Presidential nominees are now vying for position since the time seems ripe for a Blue White House and Congress. Based on Sen. Obama openly discussing cap-and-trade programs, there is little doubt that such a program will take effect soon.

But how soon? Looking back on some of the major environmental reforms, they've taken place in the last two years of a Republican's term: Nixon and Bush 1 come to mind. Since George W. finally recognized "climate change" in this year's State of the Union, he might write something up before he leaves D.C. If he does, rest assured that it would heavily favor industry, if his energy bill acts as any precursor.

In strict terms, this means that TXU will want to pump as much CO2 into the air as possible so that they can get paid to take it down in a few years. It's a plan that sacrifices the health and well-being of the residents of Waco, the Metroplex, and dozens of small towns in between for the well-being of TXU's already overpaid executives. If all the plants go ahead and the cap-and-trade comes into affect as TXU plans, they would stand to profit in the hundreds of millions, possibly billions, in taxpayer dollars.

What's being done

Yesterday, former Advocacy, Inc. lawyer and current Travis County District Judge Steven Yelenosky ruled that Gov. Perry overstepped his bounds as Governor in issuing his executive order. Administrative hearings on 7 of the coal-fired units were set to take place an hour ago, and much remains to be seen as to how far-reaching Yelenosky's ruling will be. Regardless, some will still be fighting, in courts and in the Lege, for the health of the state's citizens, and all I can say is Godspeed.

Related links:


Post a Comment

<< Home