And now for the lighter side: Energy efficiency is the short-term answer to combating global warming in Texas

While over 300 residents of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana traveled to the  big hearings in Dallas to discuss needed regulation of that nasty coal ash, here in Austin, the Comptroller of Public Accounts has finally released their draft report on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Strategies, known by us insider types as the SB 184 Report. The report was required by the Texas Legislature after Senator Kirk Watson convinced his colleagues in the Senate and House and even our governor that it might be a good idea to look at policies and strategies we could take as a state that would reduce global warming gases BUT THAT WOULD ALSO SAVE US MONEY — and yes, create economic development. While only a report, the ideas contained therein could actually lead to legislative or state agency action over the coming months.

By the way — you the public — can comment on the draft report right now by submitting your comments to TexasNoRegrets@cpa.texas.us. All written comments on the draft report are part of the public record.

The report did not happen magically, but was the result of months of analysis and workgroup meetings. AS you can expect, groups like Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Public Citizen and Environment Texas were all involved in proposing strategies, as those scared by the prospect — Texas Association of Business, the manufacturers, the oil and gas association — also participated and provided their perspective. The result is a bare bones report that lists 20 “consensus” strategies to reduce global warming gases in Texas that result in net savings for consumers or businesses in the state, and another 11 strategies where some thought they would result in net savings, while others — like the Texas Oil and Gas Association — argued there were too many potential costs to them.

Just what are these “consensus” strategies? energy efficient buildings, energy-efficient equipment, capturing methane from landfills, making our schools and public buildings water efficient, our heavy-duty trucks aerodynamic, increasing the use of fuel-efficient tires, allowing pay-as-you-go insurance, hybridization of our fleets. You get the idea — small policy changes that transform buildings and vehicles to run more efficiently and use less energy, but that taken together will make a serious dent in global warming emissions while protecting our wallets.As an example, the State Energy Conservation Office recently ruled that Texas cities and counties must adopt the latest version of the energy codes for new buildings — the 2009 IECC and the 2009 IRC —  by April of 2011 or January of 2012, and by simply adopting those codes as soon as possible, new homes and businesses in Texas would be some 15% more efficient in their electricity and natural gas use compared to the old state minimum standards. We were in El Paso just last week talking to the City about doing just that. (I’m about to do a blog about that too)

Some of the more direct suggestions by Sierra Club and others — requiring refineries to improve energy efficiency and improve their “flaring” process, increasing boiler efficiencies, or having the Public Utility Commission finally enforce the provision to require 500 MWs of solar and other renewable technologies –proved too controversial among some of our business friends but they are still there in the draft report for people to comment on.

Of course, everyone knows that the real answer to global warming is going to be transitioning away from Big Oil and Dirty Coal, but while we transition, there are literally dozens -or at least 20 according to the Comptroller Report — that we can begin doing right now to make a serious downpayment in the fight against climate change — and by the way create a little change in our pockets.

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