windfarmFrom the 2008 presidential campaigns’ focus on energy independence and exploration, climate change, and alternative fuels to current environmental crises, energy policy is rapidly moving center stage in Americas’ national political discussions. Energy policy impacts commonplace experiences, such as the price of gas at the pump, to broader and more complex matters that affect the nation’s economic prosperity, health of our environments, and social well-being of our communities.

According to the latest census estimates, Texas’ population increased by nearly 20 percent and grew increasingly diverse in the last decade. Given Texas’ large population and many energy-intensive industries, energy policy is more pressing an issue than ever before.

As Hispanics are the fastest-growing population group in Texas, with over one-third of the Texas population, they are important stakeholders in present and future energy policy. La Onda Verde, the National Resource Defense Council’s Latino advocacy arm, commissioned a nation-wide survey about Latino’s opinions regarding the environment. The data states that Latinos (and most Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity) support climate and clean energy policies. Conducted by Yale and George Mason Universities, the poll found that 81 percent of Hispanics believe global warming is happening, compared to 69 percent of non-Hispanic whites. When it comes to the government taking action, 66 percent of Hispanics said tackling climate change should be a “high” or “very high” priority, compared to 48 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Communities of color are considered particularly vulnerable to climate change because they have fewer institutional resources to adapt. According to the National Hispanic Environmental Council, Latinos have an increased risk of developing acute and chronic illnesses like asthma and other respiratory and pulmonary disease from exposure to air pollution because a disproportionate number of Latinos live in areas failing to meet one or more federal standards for clean air.

Texas has been renowned for its vast energy resources of oil, natural gas, coal and uranium. For much of the twentieth century, Texas’ economy was tied to the oil and gas industry; at the height of the oil boom in the early 1980s, oil and gas accounted for more than one-quarter of the gross state product.

However, Texas energy production and the benefits the state receives from that production are shrinking. “For example, contributions to the state’s public schools from the Permanent School Fund, which depends on oil and gas royalties, have fallen by 76 percent since 1982. Over the past two decades, oil production in Texas has fallen by more than half and production is expected to continue its downward trend.” “In just 40 years, Texas could be importing more than 80 percent of the energy required to meet its needs. Imports will make the state—and the U.S. as a whole—highly vulnerable to price fluctuations and political upheaval in the Middle East and other oil producing regions.”

Fortunately, Texas is uniquely positioned to lead the way in diversifying energy creation, which can help create jobs and help our environment. “Thanks to its history as a leading energy producer, Texas has an abundance of technical, legal, financial and research expertise that can be deployed to meet the challenges of providing energy for its growing population and economy.” In fact, the wind, solar and biomass potential in Texas is equal to “about 400 times the amount of energy our State uses per year. Wind energy alone could provide eight times as much power as all of the State’s electric power plants combined.” Utilizing Texas’ vast renewable sources could create new green jobs, ensure the continuation of Texas’ wealth from energy creation, and propel Texas ahead of the nation in environmental stewardship and future-planning.

Previous Sessions:Committees

Senate Bill 184; 81st Legislative Session: Created an advisory committee headed by the state comptroller to find strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

House Bill 1937; 81st Legislative Session; gives Texas municipalities the authority to enact property tax financing for energy improvements to different properties.

Additional Reading:

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
State Energy Conservation Office
Infinite Power of Texas Renewable Energy Educational Campaign
Department of Energy- Texas webpage
National Commission on Energy Policy
National Association of State Energy Officials
Texas Comptroller Energy Report
National Resources Defense Council