Page 5


Nor is the proposed Panhandle Loop. In a mid-February story that was widely overlooked as the TXU battle raged, Sharyland Utilities \(a transmission line an 800-mile loop of transmission lines to link the Texas Panhandle into the power grid that serves most of the rest of the state. As a result, two companiesone headed by former Public Utility Commission of Texas Chairman Pat Woodplan to build Panhandle wind-turbine farms capable of generating 2,800 megawatts by 2011. The loop will also link a planned Yoakum County 500 megawatt, gas-fired plant to the state grid. Additionally, State Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is aggressively pushing the potential of wind power along the Texas Gulf Coast. Utilizing these resources would provide all the electricity Texas will need through the middle of the next decade. However, it is probably prudent to build a couple of “clean coal” “integrated gasification combined cycle” plants that could be up and running by 2013 to provide additional capacity. We have already announced support for one such plant proposed by the Tondu Corp. in Corpus Christi. This is truly stateof-the-art technology that turns coal into gas before it is combusted to drive generators. The Tondu plant will use a combination of coal and “pet coke;’ a refinery waste product abundant in Texas. The Tondu IGCC plant will emit about 60 percent less nitrogen oxide, 80 percent less sulfur dioxide, and 15 percent less mercury than TXU wanted to impose on Texas children. It also produces less global warming pollution, but more important, the carbon dioxide from IGCC plants can readily be concentrated for capture and then “sequestered” underground as part of the solution to global warming. \(I’m happy to say that as part of our negotiations, the new TXU owners agreed to take a serious, open-minded look at IGCC technology if they consider any future plants. This is a major turnaround from the company’s hardOur plan wouldn’t squeeze out emerging technologies, as 11 TXU plants would have. Over the next decade, as needed, our plan would add plants utilizing the latest advances in technologies, such as fuel cells and storage of off-peak, renewable energy. Our plan also leaves room for further improvements in true “clean coal” technology and the next generation of nuclear power. Yes, nuclear, if nuclear proponents can answer the real questions of high costs, safe waste disposal, and proliferation. While we believe these problems have not been adequately addressed to date, we also believe that global warming is such a serious threat that all very-low-carbon technologies must be considered afresh. In any event, we’re pleased that TXU’s scuttled plans will not crowd out new innovative technologies, whether they are nuclear, hydrogen, or the inevitable coming breakthroughs in renewable energy technologies. TXU’s plan had little to do with meeting the energy needs of Texas. Its approach would have displaced cleaner existing plants, and TXU was planning to take advantage of an unintended consequence of the 1999 electric restructuring lawand to game future global warming regulationsto make extraordinary windfall profits. Fortunately, the utility giant’s new owners have signaled a real commitment to adopting a business plan reflecting 21st-century environmental sensibilities, not the 1950s mindset of the old management. The importance of the TXU sale and philosophical turnaround is enormous, partly because of its size and partly because TXU had been so intransigent in its resistance to the reality of global warming. Already the new attitude of this corporate giant is reverberating far beyond the Great State’s borders and into the hallways of our nation’s Capitol. And while a lot is being done at the state, local, and household level around the nation, Washington is where the real turnaround has to happen. We need federal global warming legislation now. Jim Marston of Austin is director of the Texas office of Environmental Defense, a national nonprofit with 500,000 member activists. He is also the group’s national director of state climate initiatives and works to promote emission-reduction measures in state legislatures around the country. Marston serves on the board of the Texas Democracy Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes The Texas Observer. MARCH 9, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23