Alternative Energy Helps Protect Texas's Economy - Accent Energy
Texas has long been known for having vast (though finite) quantities of oil located beneath the earth. While those derricks will likely be pumping for a long time, the Lone Star State is in a great position to take advantage of alternative energies. The environmental benefits are clear. Each coal-burning electricity plant that is replaced by a wind farm reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. For each acre of solar panels installed in the less populated areas of West Texas, the environmental stress caused by a rising population can be reduced.
Cleaning up the environment is a noble enough goal, but here's the best part: adoption of alternative energies can also protect Texas's economy. Here's how Texas can take advantage of this win-win opportunity.
The U.S. Department of Energy released an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy report that provides a "sunny" outlook for West Texas's solar energy potential. Some of the highest concentrations of sunlight in the country can be found in the western third of the state. Whether the state builds "flat-plate" or "concentrating" collectors, taking advantage of the solar power would reduce the amount of coal required by Texas power plants. Most of this coal comes from other states, including Wyoming and Montana. This money could be kept in Texas, protecting the local economy. While some areas of Texas are not optimal for large-scale solar energy operations, Texas Governor Rick Perry has advocated a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project that would link transmission lines from the sparsely populated areas of West Texas to the population centers in Central and Eastern Texas.
Petrochemicals, including oil, coal and natural gas, are created from organic materials but unfortunately it takes millions of years to develop these. Biomass is similar to petrochemicals, in that they are both the result of transformed organics. Instead of waiting those millions of years for dead trees to become oil, fast-growing crops can be turned into ethanol and other potent, renewable fuels. Texas is in great position to take advantage of biomass resources. Switch grass and wood chips that otherwise would go to waste can be combined with other organic materials to be converted into fuel. An added benefit is that less of this material would end up in landfills. In the coming decades, the world will be forced to switch from oil-based power. States that aren't set up to produce most of their own energy could be put at an economic disadvantage.
While some may not consider nuclear power an alternative energy, a case can certainly be made that it is. These power plants create electricity through nuclear fission, splitting plutonium or uranium atoms and then using the heat that is released to power a steam turbine. Yes, nuclear power plants do create dangerous radioactive waste that must be provided for far from population centers. However, the safety record of nuclear plants around the world has been excellent for the past couple of decades. Governor Perry has come out in favor of building new plants, looking forward to the jobs that would be created by the design and construction of new nuclear facilities. Cheap and reliable nuclear energy would also ease the strain on consumer pocketbooks.
No matter how healthy the economy is at any given time, ensuring the Texas economy creates well-paying, meaningful jobs is always a priority. Embarking on these infrastructure improvements would result in jobs that simply can't be outsourced overseas, jobs that require large numbers of skilled and unskilled laborers. The maintenance of wind farms, nuclear plants and other energy production facilities will also provide paychecks to Texans for years to come.
These alternative energies are still in the planning stages; the states that emerge as the leaders in their development will reap the biggest rewards. If Texas acts quickly, it can emerge as the center of research and development for many forms of alternative energy. In our increasingly global economy, Texas needs as many of these research and development positions as possible. Part of protecting the economy involves attracting the best possible minds currently devoted to development of alternative energies.
When Texas converts more fully to renewable energy sources, it will likely be able to export surplus energy at a profit to states that didn't prepare quite as well. In this way, development of alternative energy is not just an environmental necessity; it's an economic imperative to protect the Texas economy.