Texas: an Energy Leader

Ever since 1901, when Captain Anthony Lucas struck oil at Spindletop, Texas has been renowned for its vast energy resources. Lucas's historic discovery ignited a frenzy of exploration resulting in the production of enormous amounts of oil, natural gas, coal and uranium. Since 1930, the state has collected more than $35 billion in taxes on oil and gas.(1) Those revenues have helped build some of the nation's best roads, schools and infrastructure. However, Texas energy production and the benefits the state receives from that production are shrinking. For example, contributions to the state's public schools from the Permanent School Fund, which depends on oil and gas royalties, have fallen by 76 percent since 1982.(2) Over the past two decades, oil production in Texas has fallen by more than half(3) and production is expected to continue its downward trend.(4)

TABLE 1: Benefits of Texas Energy Industry revenues shown are in millions of dollars
  1982 1995 Change
School Fund $512 $124 - 76% (5)
Severance Tax $2,374 $848 -64% (6)
Mining Jobs 292,000 147,800 -49% (7)

Texas Now Imports Energy

During World War II, Texas exported vast amounts of oil that helped fuel the Allied advance on Germany. Texas now uses more energy than it produces(8). In 1994, the state had net energy imports consisting of $1 billion worth of coal(9) and $6 billion worth of oil(10). Much of the growth in energy demand stems from the state's increasing population and surging economy. In just 40 years, Texas could be importing more than 80 percent of the energy required to meet its needs(11). Imports will make the state--and the U.S. as a whole-- highly vulnerable to price fluctuations and political upheaval in the Middle East and other oil producing regions.(12)

FIG. 1: Texas Energy History (13) FIG. 2: Texas Net Energy Exports(14)

Energy Use Today & Tomorrow

Although Texas is home to just seven percent of the U.S. population, the state accounts for about 12 percent of the nation's total energy consumption.(15) Texas uses more electricity, natural gas, coal and oil than any other state.(16) And demand for energy, particularly electricity, is increasing. Since 1970, residential use of electricity has nearly tripled.(17) Most of the state's electricity is now generated by burning coal.(18) However, much of the growing demand for energy in Texas and around the world can be met with clean, politically secure, renewable energy. Wind-powered turbines, solar panels and fuels derived from agriculture products (biomass) are well suited to our state. Currently, less than one percent of the state's energy needs are provided by renewable energy sources.(19)

FIG. 3: Texas Energy Use by Fuel(20)

The Future Depends on New Energy

Domestic oil and gas supplies are shrinking. If forced to rely solely on domestic oil production for all of its needs, the U.S. would be completely out of oil within 23 years.(21) America now imports half of the oil it needs.(22) Over the next 15 years, that figure could rise to 70 percent.(23) For energy security and long-term economic growth, we must look beyond fossil fuels. Renewable energy offers a cost competitive option in an expanding range of applications, especially in rural areas. Over the past decade, solar, biomass and wind power costs have fallen dramatically and are now becoming competitive with fossil fuels.(24)

TABLE 2: U.S. Remaining Energy Supply Total technically recoverable resources; Years remaining at 1994 consumption rates
Crude Oil 23 years left (25)
Natural Gas 68 years left (26)
Uranium 364 years left (27)
Coal 7,007 years left (28)
Renewable Not depletable (29)


Texas Renewables: A Potential "Giant"

Before others recognized the value of oil, Jett Rink, the wildcatter in the 1956 movie "Giant" was making a fortune in the energy business. Today, Texas has the opportunity to become a leader in the global market for renewables. The Lone Star State has more renewable energy potential than any other state.(31) Wind power alone could generate up to 136,000 megawatts of electricity, more than twice the state's total generating capacity.(32) Much of the state's wind and solar power potential lies in the rural regions of west and south Texas, where jobs and economic development are sorely needed. By shifting to renewable energy, Texas can recapture some of the money now being used to import energy from other states and countries. A move toward renewables would also spur the economy, create jobs and increase our tax base.

FIG. 5: Renewable Energy Potential(33)

Make A Commitment

For nearly a century, Texas has been a leader in the world's energy industry. Whether in production, refining or technology, the world looks to Texas for products and ingenuity. Today, the state has an opportunity to lead a new sector of the energy market. Armed with its vast expertise and resources, it can become a powerhouse in the renewable energy market. Already, windmills in Culberson County and solar panels in Austin provide clean, reliable and efficient power to thousands of Texans.(34) By building on that base now--nearly a century after Lucas's discovery at Spindletop--and committing to renewable energy, our children and grandchildren will reap benefits well into the next century.

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