Last Friday’s “Energy Policy at a Crossroads: Mandate or Markets?” panel, put on by the Texas Public Policy Foundation as part of their ninth annual Policy Orientation Agenda conference, served primarily to reinforce the notion that Texas is a worldwide leader in the energy industry. Not super surprising, given TPPF’s lead role in advocating conservative policy.
Stephen Hayward, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, lead off with what has become a favorite refrain for many Texans of influence—a flattering comparison to California. Besides what everyone already knows—that Texas grew faster than California both demographically and economically over the last 10 years—Hayward pointed out that industrial energy costs in California are 63 percent higher than in Texas, which has “chased all the heavy industry out of [California].” This accounts for part of why Texas consumes so much energy—because a lot of that energy goes into the state’s growing heavy industry. There was no mention that heavy industry refers to both capital-intensive industries—such as automobile, steel, and petroleum—as well as industries that cause disruption to the environment.
Besides group back-patting over Texas’s superiority in the energy business, there was an informed discussion over the role of nuclear energy. Lead by Dale Klein, former commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it was agreed that, “the world is going nuclear, whether the U.S. is or not is still unclear.” Hayward went further, saying “even environmentalists are rapidly dropping their opposition to nuclear power.” Of course the panel was not exactly heavy on Green Peace activists.
There was also a debate over the role of renewable energy in Texas’s future, specifically wind-generated power. Paul Sadler, executive director of the Wind Coalition, tried to combat that standard argument that wind power can’t exist without subsidies or incentives. “Every generation source of electricity receives a subsidy or an incentive,” he said. “Over 99 percent of subsidies in Texas go to fossil fuels. If you want to do away with subsidies do away with all of them.”
Everyone on the panel was in favor of a diverse array of energy sources, but also saw need to protect Texas’s three-legged energy stool – oil, gas and coal. For those wary of coal’s importance to the state, Hayward pointed out that, “Texas is the leading coal consumer in the country, and consumes almost twice as much as the second leading state, Indiana.”
This Thursday, January 20, the Texas Public Policy Foundation will release their latest research on Texas energy, in which Steven Hayward, the report’s co-author, will present the findings. Expect more flattering California comparisons.