Monday, February 19, 2007

Debating TXU's Coal Burning Power Plants

Sunday's editorial by Bernard L. Weinstein argues the case for fast-tracking TXU's coal-burning power plants. Weinstein's arguments can be condensed as follows:

  1. Coal is cheap.
  2. Texas needs to add more power capacity.
  3. Conservation alone won't make up for the projected gap.
  4. Did we mention coal is cheap?

As to the cheap part, and it bears repeating, coal is inexpensive only when viewed in the short term.

But coal is only profitable because its pollution-related costs -- blasted mountains, increases in asthma and heart attacks, neurological damage from toxic mercury, environmental chaos caused by global warming -- are all offloaded onto the public.

As to the other arguments, the second and third are related. Yes, it's a virtual certainty that Texas will need additional sources of power, and conservation and clean energy sources alone probably won't meet those needs. But an investment in renewables and greater energy efficiency now would buy us time to fully consider the pros and cons of a policy that comes with enormous risks.

And speaking of those risks, the interesting thing about Weinstein's editorial is not so much what it included, as what it didn't. If you Google TXU and global warming, you'll get about 128,000 hits. The role that carbon dioxide emissions from additional coal-burning power plants would play in global warming is currently the subject of heated debate, not just in Texas, but on a national scale. And yet the term global warming is never mentioned in the editorial.

Weinstein is a professor of applied economics at the University of North Texas. As such, it hardly comes as a surprise that his focus is on the costs of energy and its impact to business. But it might also be worth noting that Professor Weinstein has done research for the North Texas Future Fund, which is a 501(c)(3) created by the North Texas Commission. The NTC site lists TXU as one of its major investors. And guess who sits on the board of directors for both NTC and NTFF?


Anonymous said...

I just read an article that a couple of Environmental groups signed a deal with TXU's buyer. I now consider those groups equal to TXU. How can you be having talks behind the public's back without even considereing their views on that deal? How much money did they recieve to sign such an accord? Environmental Defense shame on you!

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