We want to commend Lt. Governor David Dewhurst who announced his interest last week in increasing Texas’ use of its abundant natural gas resources by using market-based incentives to shift power plants from burning coal to natural gas.
This move would have a tremendous impact on the Texas economy when we need it most. We can finally stop the one way train filled with the $2 billion Texas sends to other states every year in exchange for coal that provides no real benefit to our economy and pollutes our air. Natural gas will help create jobs through exploration, construction and maintenance of new facilities. It is homegrown and could help solidify Texas’ continued energy dominance as we reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels and focus on Texas’ domestic energy resources, including renewable energy.
Texas could maximize the economic benefits of natural gas if the Legislature would adopt proposals to reduce the unnecessary waste of natural gas. An October 2010 report by the US Government Accountability Office says that 4.2% of gas produced on federal leases is lost through venting or flaring. And at least 40% could be captured with available technologies that pay for themselves with the additional revenue from selling the captured gas. As noted in the Comptroller’s recent "No Regrets" report, changing state policy to require the economic capture of vented and flared gas – meaning that 40% of the 4.2% now vented or flared would be captured — could enable the state to collect an additional 1.7% in income from royalties and severance taxes. We estimate that this would translate to a range of $50 million to as much as $100 million for the state over the biennial budget period. As the 82nd Legislature scours the budget, program by program, those millions of dollars mean more teachers in classrooms or more doctors in our hospitals.