Editorial writers and columnists have had a good deal to say in Texas newspapers lately about recent developments related to global warming and the attendant policy debates.

In this entry of TCN Journal, we present the first in an occasional series of posts that will summarize and provide links to some of what is being said by opinion journalists, op-ed writers and bloggers.


News events that provided a basis for recent commentary in Texas newspapers included the continuing international climate conference in Copenhagen, the Environmental Protection Agency’s designation of carbon dioxide as a hazard to public health and the environment, and the U.S. Energy Department’s big grant for carbon-capture technology at a plant where coal will be turned into gas at Penwell, near Odessa.

A staff editorial in the Dallas Morning News took positive note of the Energy Department announcement in the context of the EPA’s CO2 decision, getting in a dig at Gov. Rick Perry in the process:

Last week’s announcement that Summit Power has won a $350 million federal grant to build a coal gasification plant in West Texas positions our state as a leader in developing the next generation of power facilities. In Penwell, Summit plans to build a cleaner coal plant that captures carbon dioxide emissions. The CO2 then could be sold to oil companies to enhance petroleum recover. …

What’s more, the EPA’s announcement Monday that it would pursue limits on carbon dioxide emissions only underscores the urgent need to pursue clean energy options.

Gov. Rick Perry continues to characterize attempts to regulate carbon as senseless. But his 38-page rebuttal, submitted to the EPA, is probably a futile exercise. Federal officials have made clear that soon, Texas will not be permitted to pollute with impunity. Texas’ future, Gov. Perry, is in Penwell. This is one change we can embrace without getting dirty.

Headlined “Ouch! We concur on environmental needs, but let’s climb out of recession first,” a staff editorial in the Waco Tribune-Herald asserted that “common sense and a simple grasp of high school science tell us greenhouse gases aren’t good for our environment.” But the editorial said the possible federal regulation heralded by the EPA’s CO2 declaration would be “not only naive but foolish” in a severe recession:

Republicans such as Gov. Rick Perry … invited national leaders to consider other solutions such as furnishing more incentives for innovation and competition; facilitating investment in systems embracing carbon capture and sequestration; and removing barriers to investments in nuclear power.

Example: The $350 million federal grant awarded last week for an ambitious $1.7 billion coal gasification project in West Texas, where carbon dioxide captured in the process would be injected into aging oil wells to bolster production.

The EPA’s measures, however, only promise to worsen our economy and hinder Americans eking by. Our nation is ailing, the prognosis is troubling, and the bipartisan leadership and entrepreneurial spirit required to produce meaningful reforms and dramatic innovation nationwide are scarce.

The author of a staff editorial in the Longview News-Journal, however, was unpersuaded by economic warnings about regulation of greenhouse gases, voicing hope that “the EPA ruling will spur action (by Congress to reduce emissions) if and when the logjam over health-care reform ever clears”:

Opponents to the new regulations predict, as usual, that regulations will stifle economic growth and cost jobs. That argument has been used every time efforts have been made to curb pollution since time immemoria. …

Texas is the nation’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Predictably, Gov. Rick Perry lambasted the EPA decision, claiming it would unduly interfere with small businesses, farms and even churches. That is typical political hyperbole. The EPA specifically said that small businesses and farms would be exempted from any greenhouse gas emissions and didn’t even mention churches. (Though there is no shortage of hot air on Sunday mornings. Just kidding.) Perry and others ignore the vast consensus of scientific research that has concluded, again and again, that manmade emissions are contributing to global warming.

Jay Ambrose, a Colorado-based columnist who was formerly an El Paso newspaper editor, wrote in a column published by the Abilene Reporter-News that terrorist attacks are a higher priority for “immediate, intense concern” than manmade climate change. Ambrose predicted bad economic impacts if the EPA regulates greenhouse gases:

Get ready for the tyranny of the Environmental Protection Agency, because if Congress balks at passing cap-and-trade legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this bureaucratic behemoth will strike, mangling industry and further damaging a recession-plagued economy.

It’s the rage, you know, this religious-like dogma about a global warming apocalypse in the absence of turning everything upside down. There’s a world summit on the issue in Copenhagen, and even the U.S. Supreme Court got on board two years ago, saying that the EPA should regulate carbon dioxide and other suspected greenhouse gases if they were hammering human health.

A nuanced, instead of dogmatic, assessment of that summit was offered by Emily Grubert, an energy and earth resources graduate student at the University of Texas, in a column for The Daily Texan, the student newspaper, entitled “My road to Copenhagen.”

“So I ditched some school,” Grubert acknowledged at the top of the piece, written en route to the climate conference in the Danish capital. She analyzed some of the difficult multilateral issues confronting negotiators and voiced her own wish for the meeting’s outcome:

There will … be a lot of bitter disagreements whose root causes have very little to do with scientific certainty. Ethics run deep in the climate debate, and no amount of science can change the fact that people have different opinions about things like the value of the future relative to the present or the importance of equity relative to swift action. …

For my part, I hope that Copenhagen recognizes a goal of global sustainability, which includes but is not restricted to a low-carbon society. Low-carbon technologies are many and varied, and they can have drastically different impacts on land, water, community and other systems that need to be considered.

I also hope that the importance of collective action is stressed. Climate change is a global problem, and many of the problems with current actions would be reduced or eliminated by global participation.

Concerns about losing competitiveness to countries with lower environmental standards are much less relevant if environmental standards are not very different across countries. Leakage problems, where carbon emissions simply move from areas with carbon restrictions to areas without restrictions, will not be as dangerous when all regions have carbon standards.

– Bill Dawson

Image credit: peepo – iStockphoto.com