CREDIT: AP/ Jae C. Hong
There is no mention of climate change in the 2012 Texas GOP platform and the Environmental Protection Agency is identified as an agency that should be abolished. The 2014 temporary GOP platform, revealed this week, no longer calls for the EPA to be abolished, but rather demands the elimination of onerous environmental regulations. It also mentions climate change:
While we all strive to be good stewards of the earth, “climate change” is a political agenda which attempts to control every aspect of our lives. We urge government at all levels to ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or “climate justice” initiatives.
With the announcement of the EPA’s new rule for regulating the carbon emissions from power plants this week and the release of detailed studies from the IPCC along with the National Climate Assessment this year, climate change is emerging as one of the hottest political battlegrounds this summer. The Texas Republican Party, whose 2014 convention kicks off this Thursday, has now officially staked their claim as enduring climate deniers.
“With the announcement of the draft EPA carbon rule this week, it’s clearly a hot topic,” Luke Metzger, founder and director of Environment Texas, told ThinkProgress. “And with energy-related PACs donating more than $12 million to influence Texas elections in 2012 — most of which went to the GOP — it’s not surprising, but still disappointing, that the party is carrying water for big polluters.”
Metzer said he expects this is part of a broader strategy that big coal and other big polluters have to undermine the EPA carbon standard, which will also likely include litigation by the Texas Attorney General and efforts to roll back the standard by congressional Republicans.
The Republican Party of Texas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the meantime, climate change continues to ramp up as global emissions continue to rise. An analysis this week by the AP showed that the U.S. is warming fastest in the Southwest and Northeast, and that Texas summers are 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they were 30 years ago.
“Heat and drought are a vicious cycle that has been hitting the Southwest hard in recent years,” Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, told the Dallas Morning News. She said that the extreme dryness in turn causes the air and ground to warm up faster.
At the national level, last week 29 Texans in Congress sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy opposing the agency’s planned regulation of carbon dioxide from existing power plants.
The letter says that Texas leads the nation in population growth and electricity demand due in large part to “the availability of reliable and affordable electricity generated by fossil fuels.” Even though 16 out of 36 members of Texas’s congressional delegation are climate change deniers, the letter goes on to say that “it is our position that climate change policy should be directed by Congress.”
The Obama administration’s efforts this year to implement their Climate Action Plan are largely a response to Congress’ refusal to act on the issue.
Under the EPA proposal, Texas would be required to cut 39 percent of its emissions by 2030. This falls somewhere in the middle of the range, with Washington leading with a 72 percent reduction target and North Dakota at the other end with 11 percent. The EPA graded requirements on a curve based on efficiency, renewable and nuclear energy potential, natural gas availability and some other factors. Natural gas is the top source of electricity in Texas, and the economic boom has been fueled in part by the proliferation of fracking across the state.
While Texas politicians and business leaders from Gov. Rick Perry on down have decried the EPA’s proposal as unfair, it could actually provide opportunities in the energy sector.
“The new regulations are a good deal for industry and a great opportunity for Texas,” writes Chris Tomlinson, business columnist at the Houston Chronicle. “Many Texas business and political leaders condemned the new rule before it was released: Any change is dangerous, any rule is unacceptable. They’ll engage in long-running taxpayer-financed legal battles they’ll likely lose, wasting time and money better used innovating.”
Not only is natural gas production still ramping up in Texas, but the state is rich in wind and solar resources that are already being used as alternative energy sources. Many of Texas’s coal plants are also aging, and will be in need of costly upgrades in the next decade if they are to remain online.
“We have a 35 year history of developing renewable energy in this state,” Russell Smith, executive director of Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association, told ThinkProgress. “Everybody who pays attention knows we have over 12,000 megawatts of wind and that solar is coming on strong.”
Smith said that the politics and policy surrounding energy use in Texas is a very complicated issue and that a lot of people are trying to figure out what the impacts of the EPA proposal will be.
“The way we feel about it is that renewable energy has every reason to be considered and in all likelihood will play a major part in filling any gap,” he said. “Reducing reliance on the most polluting sources of energy and replacing them with cleaner sources benefits people.”
Asked if he could comment on the role climate change is playing in the statewide discussion around the EPA’s carbon proposal, Smith said “well that’s a treatise. Short answer: no.”