Texas Standard speaks with Charles McConnell, executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative.Houston Public Media‘s Travis Bubenik reports that the Sierra Club says it’s confident renewables will continue to grow in Texas, despite the administration’s pro-fossil fuels stance.
The move to roll back the Clean Power Plan and other climate policies is being welcomed by the fossil fuel industry. That’s even as industry leaders recently acknowledged at a Houston conference that their companies’ climate impact is something that should be addressed.
Chrissy Mann with the environmental group the Sierra Club says it’s “shortsighted” to pull back regulations that target big polluters. She cites NRG’s coal plant southwest of Houston.
“Even with their quite frankly top-of-the-line pollution controls for nitrogen oxide, they’re still the biggest contributor by far of that pollution to the Houston area,” she says.
Rice University’s Charles McConnell was an assistant energy secretary in the Obama Administration, but he says he’s “delighted” with the order.
“The Clean Power Plan was a dumb thing to do,” he says.
McConnell argues the plan would’ve had minimal tangible environmental benefits, describing it as unfair government overreach. But since climate change is real, he says the White House shouldn’t just ignore it, and shouldn’t regulate to pick winners and losers.
“This administration has to make a commitment to do progressive technology development for all forms of energy.”
The Sierra Club says it’s confident renewables will continue to grow in Texas, despite the administration’s pro-fossil fuels stance.
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Texas Standard spoke with Charles McConnell, executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative, about his agreement with the Trump administration’s order to review the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and pull back on other energy orders.
“The power plan itself was developed and advertised as environmental regulation,” he says. “When in fact, it was far more directed at intervening into states public utility commissions and the renewable portfolio standard from a federal level that was trying to be overlaid onto states.”
Climate change is a proven scientific fact, and McConnell agrees. But he says it’s up to Washington to set the energy strategy to limit carbon emissions, which are contributing to climate change.
He says he’d like to see investments in technology across all forms of energy – not just renewables – to provide the lowest cost, most reliable energy.
“That’s where I believe federal policy and strategy can have a major impact,” he says. “This plan was simply a way to cut out forms of energy such as coal oil and natural gas. … The EPA did not really support nuclear, it didn’t support hydro power either. It was all about windmills and solar panels. And when you begin to pick those winners and loser the American public ends up suffering.”
McConnell says the Trump administration is taking an important first step, but will need to do more.
“We have to move forward now with those progressive federally-led efforts in technology development for coal, for oil and gas, and for those other forms of energy,” he says, “so that we have a complete strategic approach to providing reliable affordable energy that is environmental or responsible for our country.”
Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.