This fall, energy has been a hot topic in statewide as well as national media. Here in Texas, regulators are facing pressing questions about the future make-up and reliability of the state’s energy portfolio. Meanwhile, the average citizen is questioning the meaning of the term “energy portfolio.” In order to fill the void and increase public awareness of the energy choices that Texas officials are making, the Sierra Student Coalition, along with the Dallas Sierra Club, the Memnosyne Foundation, SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory, and SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning co-sponsored an energy panel called “Dimming or Dawning? Prospects for Texas’ Energy Future,” in which a panel of five energy experts spoke about the opportunities for energy development in the state. The event took place Thursday evening, November 15, and clean energy took center stage during the discussion.
The panel, addressing a nearly full house in Georges Auditorium, consisted of experts from various positions in the energy field – Dr. Al Armendariz, former EPA Region 6 Administrator and current Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director; Mark Armentrout, former ERCOT Chairman and President/CEO of the energy consulting firm Texas Technology Partners; Jim Duncan, President of North Texas Renewable Energy, Inc; Dr. James Smith, the Cary M. Maguire Chair in Oil and Gas Management; and Maria Richards, SMU’s Geothermal Lab Coordinator. Bonnie Jacobs, the Chair of SMU’s Sustainability Committee, acted as the moderator.
Despite their different backgrounds, the panelists agreed about the need for the expanded use of clean energy in Texas. Notably, Professor Smith, an oil and gas finance expert, brought up the possibility of a carbon tax on fossil fuel companies that could be used to incentivize clean energy development. A fossil fuel economist advocating for a tax on his industry? Now there’s something you don’t see every day. Additionally, several panelists emphasized the need for Texas citizens to become more informed about their energy usage, so that they can make the right choices for energy providers and hold their state elected officials accountable for the energy policy they are setting.
Dr.Al Armendariz with the Sierra Club gave a compelling call for more clean energy in Texas, citing the state’s high CO2 emissions as an impetus for Texas to act more responsibly in its energy extraction in the future. Dr. Armendariz predicts that, “over the next several years, we’ll see coal become less and less important and clean energy will take a larger role in powering Texas. Old coal plants like those near Dallas are threatening our health, our environment, and our economy. Texas wind is already powering a revolution.”
Mark Armentrout further drove this point home during the audience Q&A. In a highlight of the evening, as an audience member interrogated Dr. Armendariz about the impact of wind energy on the grid, Mark Armentrout stepped in noting that recently there had been a day in which Texas received 26% of its electricity from wind. His comment was met by cheers from the audience, and silence from the questioner.
At the end of the night, the large crowd of campus and community members in attendance, as well as the panelists themselves, fulfilled the mission of the panel by lingering at the reception for over an hour to discuss the panelists’ recommendations. Many called for the event to be the first in a series, recognizing that the path towards Texas’ energy future starts with increasing community awareness.
Join us for an upcoming discussion on the role of the Public Utilities and Rail Road Commissions in setting the future of energy in Texas.
Town Hall for the Sunset Review of the Public Utilities & Railroad Commissions
Date: December 10, 2012
Time: 7:00 pm
Where: Sheraton Arlington, 1500 Convention Center Drive, Arlington, TX
Room: Hall of Fame
Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/events/142390895909685/
Legislators Confirmed: Rep. Jim Keffer, Chair of the Energy Resources Committee (Eastland) and Rep. Rafael Anchia (Dallas), Sunset Committee