Texas Energy, Today and Tomorrow - Texas Electric Company
Most Texans are quite proud of their state, and with good reason. The state is vast, in size as well as the ambition of its people, fitting with the circumstances of its founding. Texas is also a very important player when it comes to the increasingly crucial role energy plays in American security and the economy. With its rich petroleum deposits and history of oil men, the state often dictates policy for the rest of the country. Here's where the state of Texas stands in 2009, and a little bit of where it could go in the future.
Though it might seem unexpected, Texas is not only the number two state in terms of landmass. It is also the number two state when it comes to clean energy jobs. (Number one, of course, is California.) This contradiction can be seen in a couple interesting ways. Even though Texas refines the most oil and produces much more natural gas than any other state, it boasts the second largest number of alternative fuel vehicles on the road. (The 26 oil refineries in the state can treat 4.8 million barrels of oil per day, more than a quarter of the nation's total refining capacity.) According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, there were 55,646 workers employed in the clean energy industry in Texas. Those people are doing all kinds of jobs, including building and installing wind energy turbines, solar power collectors and even servicing clean natural gas buses for municipal customers. The study also found that venture capitalists had a favorable outlook on prospects for making money in the Texas energy sector. The state ranked third in dollars invested in clean energy applications.
The State of Texas received 755 million dollars thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that stimulus spending we've all heard so much about. In addition to money intended for the kind of alternative energy projects you'd expect, almost 327 million dollars is being dedicated to weatherization. Thanks to that money, Texans will use less energy (and pay less) to keep their homes at a comfortable temperature.
These are some fairly big ways Texas has made a difference. There are, however, smaller ways that different municipalities have contributed to using energy in a more efficient fashion. In the Dallas area, motorists are now able to use toll tags on the George Bush Turnpike so they can zip through toll booths instead of stopping at them. Not only does this speed up traffic, but it also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the average automobile. Some power companies in North Texas have installed smart meters in the homes of power customers. A power company must ordinarily employ readers to go to each home in the area. With smart meters, the utility company finds out how much power a customer has used in a cheaper, more efficient way. A program called AirCheckTexas offers Texas motorists grants as an incentive to replace their gas-guzzling vehicle with one that is more efficient. (3,000 dollars is certainly a great incentive to do anything!)
Texas governor Rick Perry, as head of the state, recently pointed out some of the successes he's overseen with regard to the state's energy policy. He notes that electric utilities in Texas were charged with reducing their minimum demand levels. They were able to reduce their demand below the desired goals.
Many are also confronting the future of energy and how it can be put to the best use for people in the Lone Star State. Ian Duncan from the University of Texas did a presentation at a conference called Texas' Changing Economic Climate. In "Turning Waste into Revenue," he conjectured that the state and its economy could benefit by becoming a national and international leader in carbon dioxide sequestration. As CO2 is a greenhouse gas, detrimental to the environment in large quantities, an opportunity exists for companies to trap the gas under the ground or deep under the ocean's surface. Even though he estimates the network could cost between one and two billion dollars, the benefits could far outweigh this amount, both in terms of the environment and the economy. Dr. James Fine and Chris Mihm presented a paper about the "costs and benefits of energy efficiency investments" being made in buildings and vehicles. They conclude that, if the proper steps are taken, individuals can save approximately 290 dollars a year per car and 330 dollars a year per truck on the road. (That's in 2005 dollars, unfortunately.) Household costs for food, health care, auto insurance and even water.
Texas has and will continue to face energy-related challenges. While a lot has already been done to get the state where it is in the year 2009, the planning done by both individuals and government is the key to better results for producers and consumers of energy.