Monthly Archives: March 2009

Global Warming: A Bunch of Hooey

School BooksOn its face, the board’s vote last week requiring that science textbooks “analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming” seems reasonable. It’s not.

Just because you can find a handful of “experts” who disagree with thousands of climate scientists doesn’t mean our children should be taught that the science is still up in the air. And yet, sadly, that will be just the case when the new textbooks are distributed.

To make matters worse, State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy said in Saturday’s Austin American-Statesman: “Conservatives like me think the evidence (for human contributions to global warming) is a bunch of hooey.” Hooey? Such flippant statements impact Texas negatively in several ways:

  1. They give thinking, educated Texas conservatives a bad name (while causing many to speculate about the Chairman’s vocabulary capacity).
  2. They lead to poor decisions, putting Texas children at a competitive disadvantage in science education, thus failing them as they prepare to compete in the global marketplace.
  3. They draw national ridicule, making Texas a laughing stock.

In 1999, when religious conservatives on the Kansas State Board of Education removed evolution from that state’s science curriculum, it brought the Sunflower State international ridicule as a “science-free zone.” Two years later, moderates recaptured the board and reversed the ruling — and, hopefully, Kansas’ reputation.

We can’t afford – literally, can’t afford — for Texas to become known as a new, even bigger, science-free zone. Our children deserve better.

Posted in Climate, Texas / Read 62 Responses

Global Warming: Everywhere but Texas

Children Raising HandsClean energy growth can certainly be tied to economics, but clean energy’s roots have much to do with our world’s changing climate. That’s why I feel compelled to write about my strong disagreement with today’s decision by the Texas State Board of Education casting doubt on global warming, setting our children back compared with their peers.

The Board’s last-minute decision changed the language in a school textbook chapter on Environmental Systems to include the phrase “analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming.”

The tragedy of this ruling is that it places Texas children at a competitive disadvantage in science education, thus failing them as they prepare to compete in the global marketplace. It also suggests to them that their economic and lifestyle choices are unrelated to global warming, thus eroding many parents’ efforts to instill in their children the ethic that they must be responsible for their own actions.

Why did the board ignore its own scientific advisory committee, let alone leading scientific consensus by the National Academy of Science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and our own A&M University’s Department of Atmospheric Science? Why did the board suggest this language change just two days before a final vote?

Surely they knew that such language would be indefensible and therefore chose to give scant notice for public comment.

Posted in Climate, Texas / Read 3 Responses

A “Sunny Session” for Texas?

Texas Capitol

I went to a hearing last night at the Capitol and would like to commend members from both sides of the aisle – republicans and democrats – for their clear and strong interest in increasing Texas’ renewable energy profile. Sen. Fraser said at a conference earlier this year some really good things about Texas doing such a good job on climate and energy. One of his best suggestions I think was for Texas to continue what we’re doing, and to me that means continuing with our Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

I learned a long time ago, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Texas RPS is that rare government program that has come in under budget, ahead of schedule, and far exceeded expectations. So it seems to me that when Texas wants to do something for renewables, where other states have tried and failed, we have a clear model for success that we should be a proud champion of throughout the nation.

The Public Utility Commission has shown that our RPS has saved Texas consumers money, and I believe that SB 541 is a good example of a policy that will continue that trend by allowing market forces to find us the best and cheapest renewable energy, while capping prices to make sure consumers don’t pay too much.  Some may argue that “Texas got lucky with wind,” but I strongly disagree, because when you use free-market principles to drive innovation and performance, Texas consumers will always benefit. 

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Posted in Renewable Energy, Texas / Read 7 Responses

Energy Efficiency: Fruit Lying on the Ground

Energy Saving BulbMany have described energy efficiency as the low-hanging fruit for reducing greenhouse gases as well as helping us cut our rising electric bills. In Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be in the room when new DOE Secretary Steven Chu described it as “fruit lying on the ground.”

Translation: Energy efficiency is the cheapest, fastest and cleanest source of energy and is available now. Consider that energy efficiency:

  • is one of the few weapons we have in our aresenal that is cost-effective (it saves you money);
  • reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves our electric reliability;
  • includes technologies that already exist with more being developed for buildings, homes, transportation, power systems, and industry;
  • holds great potential for creating lots of jobs, from plumbers to energy auditors, architects to air conditioning technicians.

Those of us who work in energy efficiency are happy to have the full support of the new presidential administration, but not everything happens at the national level. There are initiatives states and cities can undertake and things that individuals can do to reduce their energy consumption and lower their bills. Learn ways to save energy and money at home.

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Posted in Energy Efficiency, Texas / Read 13 Responses

This just in: $1 Billion and 500 new solar jobs in Tennessee

Green JobsNo matter how much their name makes me laugh, there’s nothing funny about Wacker Chemie AG settling on Tennessee as a good place to build its first solar manufacturing plant in the U.S., much less all the solar jobs going to Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

Just one look at the DOE’s solar radiation map tells me that Texas should be blowing Tennessee (and all the other states) away when it comes to attracting businesses that rely on solar radiation.

The truth is that solar companies WANT to come to Texas. Right now, there is an intense lobbying effort going on in the capitol to get Texas up to speed with other states that have already adopted solar-friendly rebates and policies like Renewable Portfolio Standards, which would bring more solar jobs to Texas. There’s a lot of excitement from legislators too. By my count, more than 70 bills have been filed to help make Texas more attractive to renewable energy manufacturers and generators.
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Posted in Jobs, Renewable Energy, Texas / Read 347 Responses

Everything’s Bigger in Texas-Except Solar CSP

Concentrating Solar Power

It’s great to see NRG and other utilities investing in “solar thermal” electricity, or Concentrating Solar Power (CSP).  I have to admit though that it’s disappointing Texas isn’t mentioned anywhere in these news articles – even though there wouldn’t be much to say about Texas and CSP.

Why? Although Texas is one of only five states in the entire U.S. with the kind of direct sunlight to make a large amount of CSP viable, it is the only one of those states that doesn’t have a single CSP project in the works.  These CSP plant vendors have set up shop in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, and there have even been some test projects in Colorado and Utah, but Texas has been left in the shade when it comes to solar thermal electricity. You don’t have to talk to very many people in the CSP industry to find out why: While other states in the Southwest have established renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and tax exemptions attracting industry attention, the Lone Star state has fallen behind the renewable energy crowd.  

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Posted in Renewable Energy, Texas / Read 76 Responses