We'll be liveblogging throughout the weekend from The Texas Tribune Festival's energy and environment track — which includes panels on the coming crisis over water, big oil and national security, the Environmental Protection Agency's testy relationship with Texas, and whether green energy is an oxymoron.
Follow us here for updates from the University of Texas campus.
He says the underlying theme of his remarks today is:"Are Texas jobs the next endangered species?"
He says, with allusion to climate change: "Unfortunately in this area it seems like there are the believers on one side and the skeptics on the other side"
Flip to now: Biosciences, cancer research... He's talking about SA2020, the idea of which was to "dream about the city's future."
Says the city starts with assets. Sun. The largest municipal utility in the United States. He says CPS Energy has "a unique opportunity" to impact energy development, since it owns its own generation resources.
He says the city has to ready itself: "The question is not whether the EPA will impose restrictions on utilities. The question is when."
He says he wants the city to be a leader and not to be one of the last, scrambling to meet the new regulations.
First one: Do you think Austin and San Antonio should be together in this?
Castro: Jumps to research at UT-Austin and says it and UTSA could work together. Says Austin has focused on small solar, SA on "community-scale" projects.
"I would say that Sen. Cornyn and I agree, at least on a couple of things."
He says that some regulations are reasonable and ought to be phased in, so that people should not be blind-sided or surprised. "But I do believe that there is always going to be some form of the EPA, that people want clean water and clean air in the country."
Saturday 11:30AM - The Coming Crisis Over Water
Allen Ritter, State Representative, R-Nederland
Tom Mason, Former General Manager, Lower Colorado River Authority
Andrew Sansom, Executive Director, River Systems Institute
Laura Huffman, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy of Texas
Not sure if this will be the next drought of record, but we are getting closer and closer.
"How long is it going to be? Only the Lord knows."
Ritter says that everything at the capitol is about money. He says that when his constituents tell him to not spend any more money, he listens. He says that it is up to us (the people) to make it known that a water plan needs to be done.
We need to work from the ground up, all the way from the capitol. Beaumont, Port Arthur has a lot of leaky pipes, they know they have to fix them. Everything water is slow moving, nothing happens fast. The state will be ready to step in when it needs to step in. Mandating is an ugly word that we do all the time.
"Yes, desalinization is expensive, but does that matter if you have no water?"
She mentions the movement of corporations, who look for water supplies that are secure.
Sansom adds: What can I as a Texan do? Take a kid fishing, take them swimming in a stream, encourage them to take responsibility for the resources they use.
Huffman: As population goes up and water availability goes down, water pollution also rises. In San Antonio funds have been used to protect recharge zones where people rely on the water to function.
Ritter: "Sir, we are in Texas, we have to do everything we can as we the people and stand up and support our elected officials."
I do what my people say, and they say "save my money." But you have to show the value of what you can get for the money.
Ritter: "It's going to happen when it doesn't come out of the tap."
Mason: We have become used to really cheap water, and that has to change.
That's it folks.
Smitherman says the feral hog is one of the lizard's main predators and says killing feral hogs might help.
Sunday 10:15AM - Big Oil and National Security
Amy Myers Jaffe
Directory of the Energy Forum at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University
She says there is a tendency to have this debate without remembering that you drive.
She says they used super computer to simulate the world's energy economy, and set up a scenario where Russia cuts off Germany. She says the simulation showed that in 5 to 10 years that the Europe would develop the ability to transport natural gas by ship, and Russia freaked out, asked for 25 copies of the study.
Jaffe: When I first came to the Baker Institute, I thought it was my job to go to Congress, but I realized that was not effective. Even if I could show legislatures the differences between natural gas and oil, and show them fact-based science, that does not help me. I can bring 15 studies, and they will pick the one that helps them the most. I have realized that the elected officials are just as informed as I am, but it is the voters that are not.
Jaffe: I still see it as a question of technology. Water is definitely going to be a constraint of where we do shale fracking. China also has difficulties, but it's due to water scarcity. The industries are increasingly using recycled water, reclaiming the water and cleaning it so it can be used for the next fracking. I believe the industry will be able to do it. The most important thing to think about is the cost of electricity. It's not that there is something we technologically can do, it's the cost.
And that's it folks.
shaw: we have been making progress. But there is still progress to be made.
Marston: The air is better all over the country. Numbers state has used to claim its great benefits are selective use of statistics....The numbers are better but not nearly as good as the state claims. Credits federal government -- standards, etc -- with reductions. Yes, the air is better and thank goodness it is, but it's not because of what's been done by state of Texas.
"I'm sorry we are the problem not the solution."
Trip Doggett sitting quiet on the side; hasn't said anything yet...
Shaw responds: EPA found a path for them to get out...We went forward and modified this program...Had we done nothing plants would have closed down.
Shaw: We haven't seen modeling to see if EPA has errors there; they had errors elsewhere.
Marston: Most utilities in this state...said they'd better plan ahead (for cross-state type rule).
Shaw: It's a competitive market; hard to know what investments to make.
Smitty: If we continue to fight, we're never going to get these things cleaned up...What we have is a company that bet wrong. (Appears to be referring to Luminant.)...
Smitty continues, gets applause - first applause of the panel.
Shaw: Again says it was hard to know to invest...."It's impossible to know how to invest, and if you guess wrong" and are impact by another part of a rule, then it costs more.
Marston: We have heated the planet...
Shaw: Do you know what main greenhouse gas is? It's not CO2, it's water...
Shaw: Greenhouse gases don't care if they're emitted in Texas or China....(issue of us being less competitive)
Smitty: Texas is #1 in greenhouse gas emissions...we are #7 in the world if we are a nation and made the choice to secede.
Doggett: I wish we had more...Ones with interconnection agreements are just barely enough to keep up with our load growth.
Some of that money went to The Texas Tribune, Evan says, in the interest of full disclosure.
Pickens: Well, I own companies and stock in companies... if the prices went up, I'd benefit. He says he's no longer "a big natural gas producer."
"I thought my pitch was so simple. It was abundant, it was cheap, and it was clean. Now who couldn't sell that?"
Asked to handicap the next race, he says, "I don't think Obama can win. I don't."
"I think taxes are a high-class problem: If you're paying taxes, you're making money."
"The whole thing is, be realistic about the energy sources."
Athens: At end of next year we'll be at 30% of renewables...We're getting good prices for wind right now, so maybe we can look at more -- like Houston.
Lash: It's important to look beyond McAllen. We have Rio Grande Valley Sustainability Council & Rio Grande Environmental Council. We are interfacing with councils from El Paso and Laredo.
Spanjian: Much hinges on economics. There are people that cheer when gas gets really expensive...when that happens, it means that CNG and electric cars becomes more competitive. It's key to have those technologies ready to go for when people are ready.
Spanjian: "We don't have a good water conservation program in Houston." Contrast to California, where water conservation happens even without drought.
Spanjian, on same question: For Houston, I really do use the economic argument a lot. It resonates in Houston. Also, Houston is starting to attract young professionals, who want different things -- ie, wanting to bike, wanting open space, wanting to walk down sidewalks to small businesses. Houston will always have an oil and gas economy, but it wants other things now too.,.."Over the next five to 10 years, we can really transform our city."
Barnett-White, of Denton, talks about a bicycle master-plan...people from Dallas coming up from Dallas to Denton and then getting on a bike.
Spanjian responds: It's more like what should be further along than it is. "For us, it's recycling." About 1/3 of our residents are on single-stream, a third are on dual-stream; 1/3 have nothing....Issue: No one pays a single-family garbage bill in Houston. The fact that we tried to raise some revenue for recycling, everyone freaked out. The other issue: Private sector runs it, so it's difficult for Houston to look at this holistically...We're looking at changing the whole paradigm of recycling...
Barnett-White: I wish we were further along with our community gardening.
Lash of McAllen: Big issue for us is recycling rate too; we want to improve it. Landfill fees are far cheaper than, say, in the Northwest. Also we want to do better at planting trees, especially those that need less water.
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