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Solutions to Global Warming in Texas

Texas Cities Addressing Global Warming

In May, 2008 an LBJ School of Public Affairs graduate student produced a  report for public citizen outlining steps Texas cities were taking to address global warming.  To see the report click on Texas Cities Addressing Global Warming.

Texas and Global Warming

According to a 2000 study by the Tellus Institute for the World Wildlife Fund, money-saving energy policies could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions in Texas. These policies are projected to create a net 84,000 new jobs for Texans, while saving the average family $200 to $700 per year.  The foundations of meeting the global warming challenge in Texas are cooler power sources, cooler cars and cooler industry.

Dirty vs. Clean Energy

Few Texans realize that even today much of our electricity comes from dirty, heavily polluting, coal-fired power plants. In fact, fossil fuels -- coal, oil, and natural gas -- account for over 85 percent of fuel use in Texas. These power plants release 263 million tons of global warming pollution into Texas air each year (US EPA 2001). They also contribute to numerous other pollution problems, including acid rain and smog. In Texas, fossil fuel power plants produce about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions. While producing electricity, these plants function as global warming machines, steadily altering the climate of the planet.

There are viable alternatives to fossil fuel. Clean renewable energy from the sun and wind offer non-polluting, economical, and durable alternatives for generating electricity.  In fact, Texas leads the nation in the ability to generate electricity with renewable energy.


Wind turbines are now producing competitively priced commercial quantities of electricity. Wind turbines, usually with just two or three blades, collect kinetic energy from the wind, which drives a generator and produces electricity. Texas has more windy areas than any other state. The Panhandle and Gulf Coast regions are especially well suited for wind power. If wind turbines were placed on just 4,000 square miles of Texas land, they would generate 280 million megawatt hours per year (enough to supply all the state's electricity needs).


Solar energy can be directly converted into usable energy through a variety of processes -- solar water heating, passive solar heating and cooling, photovoltaic technology, and solar thermal technology. Texas’ best solar energy sites are located in West Texas where one acre of land can produce the equivalent of 800 barrels of oil a year.


Biomass uses energy crops like fast growing trees, industrial wood waste, organic landfill waste or landfill gas to generate electricity. East Texas and parts of north and central Texas are ideal growing locations for biomass resources.  Biomass energy could provide the energy equivalent of 200 million megawatt-hours annually.

Energy Efficiency

While widespread use of renewable energy sources may be a few years away, there are a number of global warming solutions that can be put to use today.

Texans can take many steps to use  energy more efficiently and curb global warming.  During the last two decades, energy efficiency technology has improved much faster than it has been adopted. It is now possible to displace about half of all energy consumption for less money than is currently spent to use it. Some products, such as fluorescent lights and refrigerators, have been improved by federal standards, but in many areas appliances and electronics continue to waste enormous amounts of energy.

An excellent example of energy efficiency potential is light bulbs, which most consumers are still using lights based on 100-year-old incandescent technology.  A compact fluorescent light bulb that uses 16 watts of electricity puts out as much light as a conventional bulb that uses 60 watts.  Over its life, one compact fluorescent light bulb can prevent 400 pounds of coal from being burned to produce electricity, and save two to four times it’s purchase price, depending on what price is paid for electricity.


A recent study by the Tellus Institute for the World Wildlife Fund found that Texas leads the nation in job creation potential under global warming “solutions” scenarios. 

The study concluded that solutions to global warming in Texas over the next decade could produce:

  · A net 84,000 new jobs
  · Annual savings of $200-700 for the typical Texas consumer
  · Average annual wage and salary earnings in Texas would increase about $3
  · An expansion of gross state product by $2 billion


Motor vehicles produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases.   Transportation greenhouse gas emissions are primarily carbon dioxide, however vehicles also emit nitrogen oxides that contribute to ground level ozone – or smog.  In 1999, Texas consumed 240 million barrels of motor gasoline, putting it second only to California.  As a result, Texas emitted 48 million metric tons carbon equivalent (MMTCE).  This amount represents approximately 30 percent of statewide greenhouse gas emissions.

Texas can take action on transportation greenhouse gas emissions by improving fuel efficiency, promote changes in vehicle use (such as carpooling and mass transit), telecommuting and shifting to non-oil based fuels such as biomass.

Currently, the top selling vehicles in Texas are light duty trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs).   As larger vehicles become more popular, it is ever more important to improve vehicle fuel efficiency.  According to a 2001 Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report, SUVs emit 43 percent more global warming pollution than an average car and consume far more gasoline.  While a 14-mile per gallon SUV emits more than 130 tons of carbon dioxide over its lifetime, the average new car emits 74 tons.  Alternatively, more efficient hybrid vehicles are available today.  Honda and Toyota have developed competitively priced gasoline-electric hybrid cars that get 45-60 mpg and emit only a quarter of the average car’s global warming pollution over its lifetime.  The State of Texas can help promote these cleaner technologies and “lead by example” by converting state agency vehicle fleets to high mileage, low carbon emitting vehicles.

State and local governments can redesign communities to encourage walking, biking, and mass transit can to cut greenhouse gas emissions.   Providing incentives for mass transit and carpooling can provide the public with cleaner transportation alternatives.

Alternative fuel sources like ethanol can help reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions.   A University of California, Davis study found that ethanol is over twice as clean as traditional reformulated gasoline in greenhouse gas emissions.  Some countries, like Brazil, have chosen to make most of their motor fuel from less-polluting sources like biomass.  Fuels made from renewable resources have a further greenhouse emissions advantage over those based on nonrenewable resources, because the regrowth of feedstocks recaptures the carbon dioxide released by combustion of the fuel.  As the nationwide leader state in biomass potential, Texas can promote rural areas of Texas and help the environment by encouraging the use of these products. 

CAFE Standards

One of the biggest steps the United States can take to curb global warming, save consumers money at the gas pump and conserve oil is to adopt higher miles per gallon standards for cars and light trucks.  In 1975, Congress passed and President Ford signed into law Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in an effort to reduce US dependence on foreign oil.  By requiring that new cars average 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) and light trucks, including SUVs, minivans and pickups, average 20.7 mpg, these standards currently save 3 million barrels of oil every day.  Due to the recent rise in popularity of SUVs, the overall fuel economy of passenger vehicles is in decline. UCS estimates that raising the miles per gallon standards for light trucks to 27.5 mpg would save Texans a total $3,617 million at the gas pump by 2012 - with more savings to follow.   Texans can turn to EPA’s comprehensive guide to “green cars” at http://www.epa.gov/autoemissions/

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