Wind is working in Texas to help reduce greenhouse gases By Chris Madison

A new report from Environment Texas concludes that the state has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions in part through increased use of wind and other renewables to generate electricity.

Texas remains the leading state in carbon dioxide emissions, but those emissions declined 2% between 2004 and 2007. Most of that is due to decreased use of natural gas because of the economic slowdown. But the report also noted that carbon emissions from electricity generation dropped by 4% between 2004 and 2007, as utilities switched providers switched from coal to natural gas and wind.


Texas now generates 2.5% of its electricity from wind power, compared with .5% five years ago.

Pollution Down 2% in Texas since 2004

AUSTIN— Texas’ global warming pollution declined by 2 percent since 2004, the year in which pollution levels began to peak in many states, according to a new analysis of government data released today by Environment Texas. Texas still ranks 1st nationwide for the highest levels of global warming pollution.

“The trail to a clean energy future is long, and Texas is just starting to saddle up,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “It’s time to take back control of our energy future. By harnessing the power of the wind and the sun, we can cut pollution and transition to clean energy sources that don’t harm the environment, never run out, and create new, local jobs.”

For decades, America’s use of fossil fuels – and the global warming pollution that results – has been on the rise nationally and in states across the country. Scientists predict significant harm to Texas if global warming continues unabated. Temperatures are expected to increase 5.85 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, droughts will get worse and sea level rise will cause major damage to the coast. The science shows that the United States must cut its global warming pollution by 35 percent by 2020 to be able to stop the worst effects of global warming.

“I welcome the news that climate-changing pollution in Texas fell by 2% between 2004 and 2007, even as other states saw their emissions increase,” said Congressman Lloyd Doggett. “This modest improvement means we are beginning to see the green shoots of change that my friends in Environment Texas and I have championed for so long. Behind this data is a shift toward fewer air toxics, cleaner water, and good, green collar jobs for Texans. We create almost four times as many jobs by investing in wind energy as we do when we invest in coal-fired power plants. As the Nation’s number one producer of wind power, what makes for a greener planet can also mean more green in our wallets. Yet Texas remains the number one producer of greenhouse gas pollution. We still have a long way to go and Congress must continue to vigorously promote a renewable energy future, including a strong bill to combat global warming.”

The report, Too Much Pollution, uses the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Energy on fossil fuel consumption by state to look at trends in carbon dioxide emissions. The key findings include the following:

· Texas’ carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption declined by 2 percent between 2004 and 2007, reversing a decades-long trend toward increasing pollution. But Texas still ranked 1st nationwide for the highest levels of carbon dioxide emissions in 2007.

· Texas has also succeeded in holding the line on growth of emissions from its electricity sector. On a per capita basis, emissions from electric generators in Texas fell by 4 percent between 2004 and 2007—the result of reduced reliance on coal and an increase in the share of power produced by natural gas and wind. Since 2005, the amount of power produced by renewables (other than hydroelectric power) in Texas has more than doubled.

· By 2007, Texas was getting 2.5 percent of its power from these clean sources of energy compared with just 0.5 percent in 1997. Texas—which is now America’s number one producer of wind power—has been able to use its growing wind power portfolio to reduce the need for additional fossil fuel generation, keeping emission growth from the electricity sector at bay.

· Nationally, emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption increased by 19 percent between 1990 and 2007. Power plants and vehicles, the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, were responsible for the lion’s share of the increase.

"While Texas has experienced a slight decline in greenhouse gas emissions over the last five years, the amount falls far short of that required to mitigate the threat of global warming,” said Judith Clarkson, research scientist and contributor to The Impact of Global Warming in Texas. Texas needs to aggressively increase its efforts to promote energy conservation and renewable energy production, and reduce fossil fuel consumption by prohibiting the construction of new coal-fired power plants."

In total, more than one-third of the states succeeded in cutting pollution from 2004 to 2007 – before the onset of the economic recession. The initial success of these states shows that moving to clean energy can have a significant and immediate impact on overall emissions – and that emission reductions and robust economic growth can occur side by side. For instance, four Northeast states – Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York – cut their pollution levels by 5 percent since 1997, while increasing their gross state product by 65 percent.

“This report confirms that Texas can cut global warming pollution without harming our economy,” said state Representative Eddie Rodriguez. “Wind and solar power will clean up our environment and create good paying jobs, helping the Lone Star State transition to a clean energy economy.”

The report recommends that the federal government build on the initial progress made by some states by passing strong clean energy legislation and adopting common sense EPA rules to cut pollution from aging coal plants and big smokestack industries. The Senate is in the process of considering the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. In addition, EPA has proposed a rule to require coal plants and other large smokestack industries to use available technology to cut their global warming pollution when new facilities are constructed or existing facilities are significantly modified.

Unfortunately, Dirty Coal, Big Oil, and other polluters are fighting the transition to clean energy. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal industry lobby group, spent at least $45 million dollars last year alone – more than $120,000 a day – on lobbyists and advertising on energy. Earlier this year, they hired lobbyists who forged phony constituent letters to Congress opposing action on clean energy. “The coal industry has proven themselves willing to do or say virtually anything to block progress,” said Metzger.

“We urge the EPA to finalize its rule to cut global warming pollution from coal plants,” said Metzger.


Too Much Pollution: State and National Trends in Global Warming Pollution from 1990 to 2007

America’s reliance on fossil fuels—oil, coal and natural gas—for energy creates a host of problems, including air and water pollution, global warming pollution, high and unpredictable bills for consumers and businesses, and the need to import oil from unstable parts of the world.

Moving to clean energy—such as solar and wind power, more efficient homes, and plug-in cars—will cut pollution, help rebuild our economy, and reduce America’s dependence on oil.

For decades, America’s use of fossil fuels— and the global warming pollution that results—has been on the rise nationally and in states across the country. But this trend is starting to change in some states—in part because of the move to clean energy.

Following the lead of those states will start to put the United States on a path to lower global warming emissions and help drive the creation of a clean energy economy.

This report analyzes the most recent data available from the federal Department of Energy to calculate emissions of carbon dioxide from the use of oil, coal and natural gas at the national and state level from 1990 to 2007. Our analysis finds that:

• Emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading global warming pollutant, from fossil fuel consumption increased by 19 percent in the United States from1990 to 2007. Nationally, the rate of emissions growth has slowed in recent years, and emissions peaked in many states in 2004 and 2005.

• Seventeen states saw declines in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use between 2004 and 2007.

Those emission reductions—while far short of what will be needed to address the threat of global warming—could be a sign of a new trend, particularly if the United States adopts strong policies to move the nation toward a clean energy future.

States that are highly reliant on coal-fired power plants, have energy intensive industries, and/or have high levels of pollution from cars and trucks tend to produce the most carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuel use.

• Texas remained the nation’s number one emitter of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use in 2007, followed by California, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.

• Wyoming produced the most carbon dioxide pollution per capita, followed by North Dakota, West Virginia, Alaska and Louisiana. Rhode Island produced the least carbon dioxide per capita in 2007, followed by New York, Vermont, Idaho and California.

• Electricity generation and transportation are by far the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, responsible for 40 percent and 33 percent of fossil fuel related emissions, respectively, in 2007. Power plants and transportation were also the fastest-growing sources of emissions between 1990 and 2007.

Nationally, the rate of growth in carbon dioxide pollution has slowed but emissions still remain above the levels of two decades ago and well above the levels needed to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

• Between 2000 and 2007, emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption increased at one-fifth the rate they did during the 1990s.

• Carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have declined by 2.8 percent in 2008 (to their lowest level since 2001) and are projected to fall still farther in 2009, due to high oil prices in 2008, the recession, and the declining carbon intensity of the economy.

• However, these emission reductions are far from the roughly 35 percent cut in global warming emissions the United States must make by 2020 in order to do our share to avert the worst impacts of global warming.

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use are declining in a growing number of states as they invest in the clean, renewable technologies that are part of a new energy future. Emissions remain on the rise in other states that have not eased their reliance on dirty fuels.

• Four Northeastern states—Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and New York—emitted less carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption in 2007 than they did in 1990. Since 1997, gross state product in these four states increased by 65 percent while carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 5 percent.

• Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have seen total emissions decline since 2004, a year of peak emissions for many states. Maine saw the largest percentage decline over this period, while New York and Texas—the nation’s eighth-highest and highest emitters of carbon dioxide, respectively—saw the greatest absolute declines.

• Still, emissions in 33 states increased between 2004 and 2007. Emissions in Oklahoma saw the greatest percentage increase, followed by Montana and Hawaii. Oklahoma and Georgia experienced the greatest increase in absolute terms.

The experiences of states that have reduced carbon dioxide emissions, or have low per capita emissions, have lessons for how the nation can reshape its energy system and reduce emissions in the future.

• Many northeastern states have reduced carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants by switching from polluting (and expensive) oil to cleaner natural gas. Texas, meanwhile, has led the nation in wind energy installations, helping to stabilize emissions from its power sector.

These states show that switching from highly polluting fuels such as coal and oil to cleaner sources of power, including renewable energy, can lead to rapid and substantial reductions in emissions.

• Washington and Oregon are the only two states in which the number of vehicle-miles traveled on highways per capita declined between 1990 and 2007—leading to significant reductions in per capita emissions from gasoline use in both states. Both states are noted for their leadership in promoting “smart growth” and both have experienced strong increases in transit ridership, suggesting that states that provide transportation alternatives to reduce reliance on fossil fuels can reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

• States that have made investments in improving the energy efficiency of their economies tend to produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions, suggesting that energy efficiency can be a critical tool in efforts to address global warming at the same time it creates jobs locally.

Creating a new energy future and achieving the carbon dioxide emission reductions necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming will require strong action at the federal and state levels, including:

• Science-based limits on global warming pollution from the American economy, with the goal of reducing U.S. emissions by 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and at least 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

A cap on overall pollution must be paired with strong emission standards for vehicles, coal-fired power plants, and other large sources to ensure that America moves to clean energy and can achieve ambitious science-based pollution-reduction goals.

• Renewable electricity standards that would ensure that the United States receives at least 25 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources of energy by 2025—reducing the need for continued dependence on high polluting fossil fuels.

• Policies to improve the energy efficiency of our homes, businesses and factories, including strong building codes and appliance efficiency standards, as well as funding for efforts to retrofit existing buildings to achieve greater energy efficiency.

• Greater investment in transportation alternatives, including high-speed rail and modern public transportation, as well as efforts to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels and improve the fuel economy of vehicles.

These and other measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions are essential to limiting the effects of global warming and will help shift the U.S. economy away from its reliance on dirty and expensive fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy.


They want Texas to plug in with hybrid vehicles By Tom Fowler, Houston Chronicle

The Texas power grid is in good shape to handle the first generation of plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, but it will take more work to encourage consumers to buy them, industry and government panelists said in Houston Thursday.

The vision of the coalition that met at Minute Maid Park, Plug-In Texas, is for a majority of the state’s cars and light trucks to run on both gasoline and electricity. The lower-emission vehicles would plug in to electric outlets and recharge overnight, when power demand typically is lowest.

Combining that change with Texas’ growing supply of wind power generation, which is at its peak capacity at night, means the state could make deep cuts into pollution problems in its major cities and reduce its dependence on foreign oil imports.

"Electric vehicles address so many issues for us as a country and a state," said Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, who spoke at the meeting. "By making your next vehicle an electric vehicle we can improve air quality, enhance America’s energy security, and create new jobs."

A study by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council predicts that converting 60 percent of the U.S. car fleet to plug-ins by 2050 could cut carbon dioxide emissions by 450 million tons per year — about the same impact as taking 82 million cars off the road.

Electric vehicles would put a greater stress on the power grid, but Texas is better prepared than other states to make that work, panelists said.

The state has plenty of excess generation capacity, particularly during off-peak hours, said Smitherman, and it is ahead of most states in rolling out "smart grid" technology that can give consumers incentives to use less power during peak afternoon hours.

The state’s 8,500 megawatts of wind power capacity are on track to expand to 18,500 megawatts in the next decade, Smitherman said, and 2,300 miles of high voltage transmission lines are in the works to bring that power from West Texas to the major cities.

One of the biggest hurdles to plug-in hybrid purchases is cost, said Robert Braziel, head of legislative affairs for the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, one of Plug-In Texas’ member groups.

"You have to find a way, once you get beyond those early adopters, to address the cost issue for the typical household," Braziel said.

The White House set a goal earlier this year of putting 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and has agreed to jump-start the effort by providing $8.5 billion in loans for fuel-efficient car manufacturing. The federal government already offers up to a $7,500 incentive for hybrid car purchases and the State of Texas has considered incentives too.

Andrew Jetton, director of strategy and development for electric retailer Reliant Energy, said plug-in hybrid drivers may end up using up to 25 percent more electricity than they do now. "It will be a difficult transition for those customers but we can make it easier if we can make the total vehicle ownership cost less," Jetton said.

The coalition hopes to drive policies that create consumer incentives, reduce the costs of the technologies, and attract businesses related to the technology to Texas.

On Monday, the Electrification Coalition is expected to announce plans for building out the national infrastructure to support electric vehicles. CEOs from companies including Nissan, FedEx and NRG Energy, Texas’ second largest electricity generator, are part of the national group.