Study says climate law could cost Texas lots of jobs

Houston Chronicle | By Tom Fowler

Federal climate change laws could hit energy- rich Texas particularly hard, says a study from the Texas Public Policy Foundation. It projects these effects by 2030:

  • Chemical manufacturing: Down as much as 14 percent.
  • Coal production: Down as much as 87 percent.
  • Gross state product: Down by $29.9 billion to $40.8 billion.
  • Jobs: Down by 196,928.

Source: Texas Public Policy Foundation

Proposed U.S. climate change laws could cut Texas’ manufacturing output by more than 5 percent and increase electric prices by as much as 52 percent by 2030, according to a study to be unveiled today by a conservative Texas think tank.

The state’s energy-intensive industries — including oil and gas producers and chemical plants — would be hit particularly hard by laws aimed at putting a price tag on greenhouse gas emissions, said Margo Thorning, one of the authors of the study done for the Texas Public Policy Foundation. It will be released at a Houston news conference.

“If pending legislation such as the Waxman-Markey bill is enacted, the Texas economy will experience slower growth and thousands of valuable jobs will be lost,” Thorning said, referring to the climate change bill passed by the House of Representatives last year. “Energy-intensive industries with foreign competition could reduce their operations in Texas and relocate in countries without similar mandates.”

The study is not the first to try to measure the impact of climate change laws on the state. The state Comptroller’s Office released a study last year that said the proposals would cost 170,000 to 425,000 jobs and reduce gross state product by as much as $58 billion by 2030.

A study by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas estimated the effect of the laws on typical electric bills in the state could range from a $10-a-month reduction to a $54 dollar increase.

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, says the new study and past ones fail to take into account the potential benefits of tougher air standards. In addition to the health advantages of cleaner air, Waxman-Markey would create nearly 20,000 new “green” jobs in Texas Metzger said.

And a study by the University of Texas’ IC2 Institute says Texas could generate up to 123,000 new jobs if it moved aggressively toward solar power panel manufacturing and installation.

Texas a target?

The study doesn’t show much difference in the effects on consumers in Texas and other states, Metzger said, although Gov. Rick Perry has said the federal government “has a target on Texas’ back.”

Transitioning to a clean energy economy is going to require changes in Texas industry,” Metzger said. “Even absent global warming legislation, the oil industry won’t last forever. But we can get ahead of the curve and invest in energy sources that won’t run out, like solar and wind, and make sure Texas maintains its role as energy capital of the world.” – Cornyn statement

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who is expected to join Texas Public Policy Foundation members at today’s release of that group’s study, said he will continue to oppose cap-and-trade while looking to Texans for better alternatives.

“We can and should reduce our dependence on foreign oil by prioritizing the production of existing resources here at home and encouraging private investment in energy technologies like next-generation biofuels, the recovery of natural gas from shale, and in wind, solar and nuclear power,” Cornyn said in a prepared statement.