It’s time for another of TCN Journal’s occasional roundups of Texas commentary on climate change, energy policy and related matters. Editorial writers and columnists have had a lot to say on those topics in recent months.
The state’s two largest newspapers, for instance, resoundingly proclaimed the need to deal with manmade climate change.
“Despite all the spinning and hot air,” the Houston Chronicle editorialized in reference to stepped-up attacks on scientists’ findings by climate-change skeptics, “the science is solid and global warming is a real, deadly serious concern. It’s time to deal with it.”
The Dallas Morning News declared that the state’s legal petitions challenging possible federal regulation of greenhouse emissions were “”roublingly shortsighted,” adding that Gov. Rick Perry and other state officials behind the move “would be wise to focus instead on how best [Texas can] be a leader in a less carbon-dependent world.”
Arguing for congressional action to stem climate change in another editorial, the Morning News asserted that “the nation can’t afford inertia or inaction, as the environmental and economic challenges posed by greenhouse gases only grow worse with each year of inattention.”
Newspapers provided a platform in op-ed columns for Texas academics to argue that the state should take climate change seriously.
Gary Johnson, a former aerospace engineer who now teaches mathematics at Texas State Technical college and engineering at McLennan Community College, warned in a column for the Waco Tribune-Herald that rising sea levels pose enormous threats:
The global warming “debate” as currently framed is entirely foolish and pointless. It should be focused primarily on how to cope with the coming migrations [of displaced coastal residents], and secondarily on how to buy the needed time [by reducing greenhouse emissions].
The Chronicle published a guest column by four professors at the University of Texas, Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University, who said projections of a much drier climate in Texas argue for forming an “expert consortium of scientists, policymakers, resource managers, state agency representatives, educators and stakeholders.”
This Texas consortium, the writers said, could assess current knowledge, identify uncertainties so researchers can address important questions, and assemble “the best information” to help the state plan for anticipated climate changes.
Energy choices facing the state and nation also drew commentators’ attention – how could it be otherwise in Texas? – and each major option seemed to have its fans.
The Longview News-Journal, for instance, editorialized that Texas could be a leader in advancing solar power:
There is no single solution to solving either our energy dilemma or the ongoing concern over greenhouse gas emission. Solar power is certainly one of the solutions, especially in a state blessed with abundant sunshine most of the time. As one builder of solar energy homes said it is the “one source of energy that can be productive on any rooftop in Texas.”
Michael E. Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy & Environmental Policy, co-director of the Clean Energy Incubator and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, also describedthe state’s solar potential in a guest column in the Austin American-Statesman:
As the nation’s largest energy consumer, leading emitter of carbon dioxide emissions and vanguard of the traditional energy industry, Texas might seem an unlikely candidate for the world’s solar market leader. But with the combination of an expansive solar resource, recent success with wind power, extensive natural gas installations, competitive electricity markets and commitment to add transmission capacity, Texas might become just that.
In another editorial, the Globe-News argued that President Barack Obama should “listen carefully to the experts on energy exploration and development – many of whom live right here in Texas,” because “oil and natural gas need to remain part of the energy strategy, even as the president’s team pursues alternative energy sources.”
In Houston, where oil and natural gas are famously crucial to the local economy, the Chronicle ran an editorial that said a message emanating from a major energy conference in the city should be “flashed in neon to President Barack Obama and the rest of the nation” – “Domestic natural gas is clean, cheap and plentiful — look here for answers, Mr. President, as you seek energy security.”
Just a few days before BP’s huge oil-well spill began in the Gulf of Mexico, a Chronicle editorial asserted that opening new areas in the eastern Gulf and off the southeast Atlantic coast to drilling “is utterly necessary” and would “help the country erect a sturdy bridge that will lead us where we all want to go – to an energy future built on sustainable technologies such as wind and solar.”
A month later, with BP still unsuccessful at stopping the flow of oil, another editorial in the Chronicle had a somewhat chastened tone:
We applaud the Obama administration’s decision this week to authorize an independent commission to investigate the explosion and spill.
We continue to believe in the future of offshore exploration and drilling, but only with the most stringent safety and environmental regulations in place.
– Bill Dawson