Bill Lauderback

The liberal Democratic mayors of Dallas and Houston, Laura Miller and Bill White, are taking a play right out of the California political playbook as they try to turn out the lights — literally — in Texas.

California, which has refused for over 30 years to allow any new electric power generation plants to be constructed in the state, is repeatedly plagued with brownouts and total electrical power failures during the summer months. For no other reason than pure partisan politics, Mayors Miller and White view replicating the California experience as a winning strategy.

Over the next decade, if current trends continue, the Texas economy will rapidly expand while the state’s population will swell by another six million new residents. Experts at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas warn that without new electric power generation, the state’s power reserves could drop below reliable levels by 2008.

2008 is only 15 months away. And if Mayors Miller and White have their way, Texas will be the next California, a state unable to provide its citizens with affordable and reliable electric power.

Enter TXU, the Dallas-based utility that provides electricity and related services to more customers than any other retail electric provider in the state. Recognizing that Texas is rapidly approaching the limits of its ability to provide power to its citizens and businesses, TXU announced in April its plan to invest more than $10 billion to build 11 new coal-fired power generation units at existing sites. The TXU plan will not only help meet the state’s exploding demand requirements; it will also lower wholesale power costs by an estimated $1.7 billion annually and create thousands of jobs.

But won’t these new power plants erode air quality? Absolutely not. Indeed, according to the independent air modeling analysis requested by state and local officials and recently released by the Texas Environmental Research Consortium, the TXU plan will actually improve air quality.

How can this be? New power plants mean more pollution, right? No, not when it’s done correctly. The TXU plan calls for spending up to $2.5 billion of its investment to retrofit equipment and adjust the fuel mix at existing plants to reduce emissions, and to use the best available environmental control technology at the new plants. TXU is so confident in this plan that it has formally asked state regulators to make its 20% emissions reduction commitments binding and legally enforceable. Read that last sentence again—binding and legally enforceable.

Bill Lauderback

J. William Lauderback is the executive vice president of the American Conservative Union.

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