Is climate bill good for Texas?

July 1, 2009 5:43:50 PM PDT
Texas lawmakers are issuing a warning about a plan to clean up the air. The new bill headed to the U.S. Senate could cost thousands of Texans their jobs. The proposal puts tough limits on greenhouse gases from sources like refineries, which are a major employer in southeast Texas. However, supporters say the plan is the beginning of a new, more energy efficient America.

Here is President Obama's idea: Global warming is causing huge problems. To solve that, carbon emissions need to be cut and alternative energy sources encouraged. The president says his plan does that, starting in 2012, and costs Americans less than $200 per year. Unless you live in Texas.

The large smokestacks are either the engine that drives the Texas economy or the reason our planet is choking and melting. There really isn't a whole lot of political middle ground on President Obama's energy plan.

Republican opponents of the plan Wednesday voiced their concern to a Clear Lake audience.

"If this bill becomes law, within 10 to 15 years there will not be a refinery or petrochemical complex on the Gulf Coast," said Texas Representative Joe Barton.

The big idea behind the law is to force polluters to clean up their own businesses by cutting carbon dioxide emissions which lead to global warming.

The proposal does it under a so-called Cap and Trade plan.

So here is how Cap and Trade works: Let's say you have two glasses of water and it takes ten ice cubes to keep each glass of water cold. But next year, the government says you can only use eight cubes in each glass. So you replace one of them with a better cup and it takes only six ice cubes to stay cool. You have two ice cubes left over, which you can sell to your neighbor with the inefficient glass. You make money and save the environment.

It's the same with refineries. The government is going to cap the amount of carbon dioxide they can put out in the air and anyone who uses less can trade the extra credits.

That cost for companies who need more gets passed on to you, the driver.

A Texas study estimates the Obama plan could cost every Texas driver $130 a year.

Since coal-fired electric plants would be forced to lower emissions as well, the same study says your electric bill would go up another $324 every year.

Depending on how businesses deal with the new laws, there could be as many as 135,000 job losses in Texas by 2012.

All of the dire predictions are not nearly enough to persuade environmentalists away from supporting the plan.

Standing in the shadows of our energy dominated skyline, Matthew Tejada of the Galveston Houston Association for Smog Prevention told us this is the kind of possibly painful incentive Houston needs to get ready for the future.

"Oil has what made Houston so recession proof this past year or two. It's kept this city afloat," said Tejada. So why rock the boat?

"If Houston has not worked through all this time to create renewable jobs that are going to be here a long time, this is going to be another Cleveland, this is going to be another Detroit," said Tejada.

You may be surprised to know that not every energy company is against it. Both Shell and BP support Cap and Trade. It may be good for the environment, but it could also open ways for energy trading companies to make big money.

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