Author Kelpie Wilson (Primal Tears) and Environmental Editor at Truthout.org wrote the following article on 22/11/2006. It is pertinent and deservedly to the point. Of one at a time, or one by one, and meaning state by state if necessary - and it looks necessary - in terms of developing a national American collective consciousness on behalf of the planet from which much of Texas wealth is derived and to which its waste is distributed...
Power Companies Order Up Texas ToastOn Tuesday, climate scientist James Hansen said that the world has less than a decade to take decisive action on global warming or risk tipping the planet towards catastrophe. 'The biggest problem is that the United States is not taking an active leadership role - quite the reverse.' The world can't get its act together without the United States, and the US can't do it without Texas. The world may have ten years, but Texas only has six months to stop TXU from turning our climate to toast.
Texas toast is that super-sized slab of unwholesome white bread that you get with your eggs and bacon at diners in Texas and other red states. Texas toast is also a good name for what power generators want to do in the Lone Star State as they order up a giant helping of new, dirty coal-fired plants.
In October 2005, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita drove up natural gas prices, and after a meeting with power giant TXU, Texas governor Rick Perry issued an executive order fast-tracking new power generation that uses Texas natural resources for "energy diversity." Although Texas has plenty of solar and wind power potential, power companies like TXU had only one alternative in mind: coal.
Coal is cheap. Cheaper than natural gas and a whole lot dirtier. With Governor Perry's order in hand, TXU applied for permits for eleven new giant coal power plants. Several other power companies and utilities put projects in the pipeline too, but TXU's plants are way ahead in the process. That might have something to do with its generous campaign contributions to the Governor. The Dallas Morning News reported in October 2006 that since Perry signed the executive order, TXU and its associates had contributed $87,000.
Coal may be cheap to TXU, but it's not cheap for people or the planet. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, TXU's eleven proposed plants, totaling more than 9,000 megawatts, will produce about 78 million tons of CO2 per year. EDF says that's equivalent to the annual emissions of 10 million Cadillacs and more than the annual emissions of the entire country of Denmark.
Texas is already the number one CO2 polluter in the United States, which is the number one CO2 polluter in the world. If Texas were a separate country, it would rank as the world's tenth largest greenhouse gas emitter. But TXU could care less about that. When the company pitched its plans to municipal leaders last summer, it was happy to point out that CO2 is not a regulated pollutant. Expensive measures to control the gas would not be required.
Clearly, TXU is rushing to complete these cheap and dirty plants before any federal CO2 regulations can be enacted, thereby locking Texas and the planet into increased CO2 emissions for the 50 year life of the plants.
But Texans are becoming increasingly concerned - about climate change, about escalating power prices and about air quality. A number of local citizen groups have sprung up in opposition, and at least twenty mayors and county executives, including the mayors of Dallas and Houston, have raised concerns.
The most immediate victims of TXU's dirty coal expansion will be children and the elderly, some of whom will die. Texas Public Citizen just released a report on the deadly consequences of the fine particulate pollution that the plants will emit. The new plants will add 50,568 tons of sulfur dioxide and 24,031 tons of nitrous oxides per year. The report says: "This pollution can be expected to cause 177 premature mortalities per year, and 8,869 premature mortalities over the expected lifetimes of the plants."
Jo Cervenka is a member of T.P.O.W.E.R. (Texans Protecting Our Water, Earth and Resources), one of the many local groups organizing to stop TXU. She and her husband are ranchers near Waco, where there are four coal plants planned within five miles of her house and nine within sixty miles. "I don't want to live in a ring of fire," she said. "There is already asthma and cancer in my family and we can't take any more fine particles, mercury or dangerous acid gases."
Jo and others like her are preparing for hearings beginning November 27th that mark the start of the expedited approval process. Hearings and discussions that normally take a year and a half will be compressed into six months. The timing is so tight that many hearings have been scheduled for the same day and time. That means that people like Jo Cervenka who will be affected by more than one of TXU's plants can only attend one hearing.
TXU says that since the price of natural gas keeps going up, its new cheap coal plants will bring rates down for consumers. But the company is playing a shell game. Energy regulators in Texas have tied rates to the price of natural gas, so power producers can charge the natural gas premium price for their cheap dirty coal. TXU can make billions of dollars on that price differential because no one will make them pay the real cost of coal.
Laurie David, global warming activist and producer of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, calls TXU's new coal plants "global warming factories." She says Texans need help from the rest of country, and she's asking people to write to TXU (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell them to drop their plans for these dirty coal plants. More suggestions for action.
On Tuesday, climate scientist James Hansen said that the world has less than a decade to take decisive action on global warming or risk tipping the planet towards catastrophe. "The biggest problem is that the United States is not taking an active leadership role - quite the reverse," he said.
The world can't get its act together without the United States, and the US can't do it without Texas. The world may have ten years, but Texas only has six months to stop TXU from turning our climate to toast.