What One Conservative Texas Think Tank Doesn’t Want You To Know About The Clean Power Plan

on November 17, 2015 at 10:00 AM

General view of an oil refinery

Every time I open my hometown newspaper and see a negative op-ed on America’s first nationwide limits on power plant carbon pollution – the Clean Power Plan – I think, “Oh boy. Some new industry water-carrier opposing commonsense efforts to improve public health.”

Now, to be sure, Texas is not the only state where groups have been telling lies and fearmongering in the press about these new clean air standards. But at least here in Texas, there seems to be one group in particular that’s leading the pack of spreading misinformation: Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). They’ve been regurgitating the same tired, anti-science, anti-health nonsense for years.

A conservative think tank based in Austin, Texas, TPPF claims it is trying to protect people’s wallets – which is true if by ‘people,’ you mean its members. Just take a look at its donor list, which includes out-of-state interests like the Koch Brothers and Big Tobacco, as well as major coal players like The American Coalition for Clean Coal and Texas coal-burning electric generators.

The truth is, they don’t want Texans to realize the pollution standards are good for our health, water supply, and economy. Here are a few other things they’d prefer you didn’t know about the Clean Power Plan:

Their “sky is falling” predictions on cost increases are bogus: Electricity prices will not skyrocket under the Clean Power Plan. As more wind and natural gas have come online in Texas, electricity prices have actually gone down. In fact, average annual real-time market prices for electricity decreased nearly 50 percent from 2005-2013, largely due to the significant decline of the cost of renewable energy and natural gas.

Then you need to factor in that the cheapest energy of all is energy we don’t use in the first place. Texas has barely begun to take advantage of our most cost-effective clean energy resource: energy efficiency. The state’s energy efficiency levels are currently at 0.21 percent of our energy generation mix, meaning there is a huge potential to lower bills through helping families and businesses use less energy.

In our grid operator’s recent assessment of the Clean Power Plan, costs rise just one percent per year in itsworst-case scenario. The difference is less than typical price increases from year to year, plus those projected 2030 prices are still lower than where we were in 2002 before the deregulation of the electricity market. Regardless, we can avoid those increases if Texas gets to work on a thoughtful plan that harnesses our abundant clean energy resources.

Furthermore, historically, opponents of environmental standards have predicted crazy cost increases time and again – and have consistently been wrong. This is exactly what happened with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, when industry made outrageous cost predictions that ended up being as much as eight times greater than the real cost.

The Clean Power Plan is good for all Texans’ health (including the members of TPPF): Carbon pollution is a clear and present danger and our communities are already suffering serious harm. This is especially true for those neighboring coal-fired power plants – which often also happen to be the home of some our most vulnerable citizens.

A study evaluating a carbon reduction strategy similar to the Clean Power Plan shows it would save approximately 2300 lives, as well as prevent 790 hospitalizations and 140 heart attacks, in Texas alone between 2020 and 2030. Those are real Texan lives saved – lives that TPPF conveniently leaves out of the equation.

“Business as usual” gets Texas nearly 90% of the way to meeting its 2030 Clean Power Plan goals: The existing market – not an environmental agenda – is already transitioning our state to a clean energy economy. If those trends continue as they are expected to, we will only need a handful of thoughtful investments to get us over the finish line.

That’s because Texas’ electric grid operator has created the most competitive market in the country, meaning the most economical resources get put on the grid first. Increasingly, some of the most affordable options also happen to be clean, like energy efficiency, natural gas, and solar and wind energy. Plus, independent sources like Bloomberg New Energy Finance show coal – which TPPF is trying to prop up – will continue to increase in price as the cost of wind and solar continues to fall.

The majority of Texans are in favor of limiting carbon pollution: 61 percent of Texans support setting strict limits on coal-fired power plants. Good to know Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton are going ahead with a lawsuit without giving two cents about what the majority of Texans actually want.

The military recognizes how critical clean energy is: A new report from retired military leaders says, “Renewable, distributed energy is not just a ‘policy objective’ for the U.S. military, it is an operational imperative.” The Clean Power Plan will help usher in an era of a smarter, cleaner, more efficient grid that will improve national security and make the U.S. more energy-independent.

The Clean Power Plan is firmly anchored in law and fact: Despite our state leaders’ use of valuable resources to fight the plan, established law is not on their side. Three Supreme Court cases have confirmed the applicability of the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions – i.e. the Clean Power Plan is on solid legal ground.

Texas has a bounty of clean energy resources at hand to tackle carbon pollution. For example, we have more solar, wind, and energy efficiency potential than any other state – but you wouldn’t know it from the TPPF. Let’s not sacrifice progress and healthier Texans for the sake of a few polluters’ pocketbooks.

By Jim Marston

Originally Published on November 13, 2015

The Energy Exchange Blog is a forum where EDF‘s energy experts discuss how to accelerate the transition to a clean, low-carbon energy economy. Follow them on Twitter here: @EDFEnergyEX