There is an assault on public health and environmental integrity underway in the Texas Legislature right now that’s the worst I’ve seen in my twenty-something years as an environmental advocate.
The Texas Legislature is currently considering a series of bills that would eliminate much of the important rules protecting not just air and water, but also public health and safety. Many of these laws have been in place for decades and are critical in a state where the energy industry and large polluting companies are a key part of our economy.
Here’s a run-down of some of the worst bills being considered at the Texas Legislature and the elected “leaders” sponsoring them:
Crime: State Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), author of Senate Bill (SB) 931, is proposing to undo the law that put Texas on the national – and international – map for wind energy: the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Set into law in 1999, the RPS set renewable energy, predominately wind, goals for Texas, launching a windfall of new investment in West Texas and the Panhandle. This is the same law that helped create 40 new businesses and 30,000 jobs in 57 West Texas counties, including Fraser’s own county.
Wind energy is a vital component of Texas’ economy and environment. Not only does it support thousands of jobs, predominately in rural West Texas, but wind energy also requires virtually zero water, saving an estimated eight billion gallons of water each year. This bill would also halt construction of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), a 3,600 mile transmission line that will connect remote West Texas wind energy to the eastern cities that need its power. This project, one that the state has already invested in, would deliver enough power to energize 3.7 million to 7.4 million homes and increase the available wind power supply by a whopping 50 percent. Read More
Last month, I attended the Vail Global Energy Forum in Colorado. Billed as a “mini-Davos” of energy (studiously ignoring the Aspen crowd a few hours down the highway), that moniker may have felt aspirational when the conference launched three years ago. But, this year it paid off: momentum for frank dialogue and global innovation is building on the slopes of the Vail Valley.
Here’s my take on how the clean air of the mountains cuts through the hot air of energy debates to illuminate practical, actionable ideas.
Three big ideas drove the conference:
- North American energy independence
Mexico, the United States, and Canada could, together, innovate their way to an energy marketplace that weakens dependence on overseas imports, scales up clean energy solutions, and charts a path to low-carbon prosperity. At times, the discussion was framed by the rise of unconventional oil and gas exploration (yes, “fracking”), collaboration around pipelines (yes, “Keystone”), and whether these could disrupt traditional geopolitical frames. Read More
Also posted in California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Colorado, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Utility Business Models
Long familiar in major urban areas, smog – what we experts call “ground-level ozone” pollution – is quickly becoming a serious problem in the rural mountain west, thanks to rapid expansion in oil and gas development. Smog can cause serious health impacts like aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, and even premature death. In areas like the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming, smog levels have sometimes rivaled those in Los Angeles.
Now, the Environmental Protection Agency and several western states are putting the pieces in place to fix this problem: EPA through proposed revisions to the health-based ozone standard that will better protect people from pollution, and states like Wyoming and Colorado through strong policies that are helping to reduce the sources of ozone pollution in the oil and gas industry.
In official public comments filed this week with EPA, EDF and a broad coalition of western environmental and conservation groups supported a more protective ozone standard and pointed out the importance of this issue to the intermountain west–where most of the country’s oil and gas production from federal lands occurs.
Ask most people what the Beatles and California have in common and they might very well be at a loss. However, the answer is pretty simple: they are both unabashed trendsetters in the face of resistance – the former in their musical style and the latter in its clean energy policies.
Not content with setting a Renewable Portfolio Standard that ends at 2020, Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators are pushing for the Golden State to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.
To meet this ambitious target, California must build a system that is largely based on renewable electricity, like wind and solar. This is not an easy task. The primary reason? Sunshine and wind are only available at certain times of the day and can be variable during those times.
Traditionally, managers of the electricity grid have relied upon dirty “peaker” power plants – usually fossil fuel-fired and only needed a couple of days a year – to balance the grid during periods of variability or when electricity demand exceeds supply. But, in a world where 50 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources as a means to achieving a clean energy economy, we can’t rely on these dirty peaker plants to balance the variability of wind and solar.
Luckily, technology is available today that can help fill the gap of these peaker plants – and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is starting to embrace it. Read More
Also posted in California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid
We need to have “the talk” about solar power and equity, because ignoring uncomfortable questions will invite misinformation and bad decisions. We need an informed dialogue about how local solar power can impact low-income communities and communities of color in the U.S. We need to talk about “all the good things, and the bad things, that may be.”
First things first: the price of solar panels has fallen by 80 percent since 2008. This significant decrease in cost, coupled with incentives such as net metering which allow customers to send the energy they produce from their solar systems back to the grid and receive a credit on their bill, and the emergence of new financing models like solar “leasing” programs, has led to an explosion of local solar in the U.S.
We now boast an estimated 20 gigawatts of solar energy nationwide (enough to power more than four million U.S. homes), and the United States added more solar capacity in the past two years than in the previous 30 years combined. In fact, as President Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address, “every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.”
We already know the innovative program NYC Clean Heat is yielding tremendous results: soot pollution from buildings in New York City has fallen by more than 50 percent since 2011, preventing an estimated 800 deaths and 2,000 hospital visits due to lung and cardiovascular diseases annually. That hard work by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the City of New York, and our partners has now been recognized –again.
The Association of Energy Service Professionals has given NYC Clean Heat an award for Outstanding Achievement in Non-Residential Program Design & Implementation. We are honored to receive this award from such a distinguished organization and believe it shows that a program like NYC Clean Heat is both necessary and replicable.
EDF partnered with the City to create NYC Clean Heat in 2012, which forged a diverse coalition of the financial, real estate, and non-profit communities, to launch a $100 million financing program to help phase out dirty heating oils. The program helped 4,000 buildings – half of them affordable housing – convert to cleaner, more efficient heating oils. Read More