Texas Can’t Afford Another Misguided Report

It looks like the Texas bureaucrats are at it again. A state agency recently released a report that looks at the downside of federal climate change legislation without even trying to quantify the significant upsides that a number of studies have shown. This seems to be a theme with some Texas agencies – focusing only on the doom and gloom and ignoring the benefits for Texas.  

Last month ERCOT issued a report that was so narrowly focused, the Comptroller’s office didn’t even bother trying to use it as a basis for its report. Now, the Comptroller’s office has released a deeply flawed report using the kind of biased studies that at least one TV station has refused to give paid air time to.  

Forget the fact that Texas is the biggest, sunniest state and has already proven it can make a lot of money from carbon-free energy, like wind. Texas also has more economic opportunity than any other state for the 21st century energy economy. Too, forget (if you must) that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by the Supreme Court to regulate greenhouse gasses absent any federal legislation – so we know regulation is coming either way. Finally, forget the fact that climate change legislation is working its way through D.C. quicker than anyone expected because of the broad business, environmental and consumer support behind it. Texas needs to act now to maintain its energy leadership into the 21st century clean energy economy, and we can start by studying the full impact of legislation vs. inaction.                                                        

Recent studies that take the time to responsibly calculate the costs and benefits of acting now to prevent serious climate change show a very different picture than this report. Studies from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and EPA look at both the costs and the benefits of the legislation in terms of jobs lost and jobs gained. In both cases, the studies find a much better outlook for jobs and economic impact, and it’s clear that early actors will get the lion’s share of economic development benefit.

Another recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that clean energy job growth already outpaces 2 to 1, other Texas job growth. The study also points out that this growth hinges on the cap and trade legislation working its way through Congress right now. Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the Pew Center on the States, describes the clean energy economy as “poised for explosive growth.”  

Compounding the problem, the Comptroller’s office ignores these studies, like the one released last month by Texas A&M that estimates climate change damage to be more than $12 billion for the Galveston and Corpus Christi areas alone. Texas needs to address the real and immediate threats to our national security and economic welfare that climate experts from Texas A&M, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agree on. The NOAA report shows that Texas is at significant risk of droughts and longer, hotter summers posing serious risk to our livestock and agriculture jobs

In light of the urgency of the issue and Texas’ quickly closing window to prepare for this legislation, I’m disappointed that the Comptroller’s office appears to deem it too difficult to calculate the potential clean energy job growth this bill will create, especially when so many others already have. The office seems perfectly capable of looking at other sections of jobs envisioned for the state’s positive economic future, so I don’t understand why it isn’t considering all of the jobs, including those in the clean energy sector. Everyone knows Texas can and should be a leader in the 21st century clean energy economy, but flawed reports like this one from the Comptroller’s office will simply hold our state back.

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    Vice President, US Climate and Energy
    Jim Marston is the founding director of the Texas office of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), located in Austin, where he has served since its beginning in 1988. He is also a leader of the Pecan Street, Inc., a partnership that includes Austin Energy, the University of Texas, the Chamber of Commerce, and several large high/clean tech companies aimed at making fundamental changes in the nation's electricity grid.

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