By Michael J. Economides
Texans owe the White Stallion Energy Center a debt of gratitude for “suspending development” of its coal-fired power plant. It’s good news for our air, water supply and economy – especially if a new natural gas power plant will be built instead.
Natural gas has been a compelling story for the United States for more than five years, arguably the biggest story in the history of oil and gas, certainly for the last 50 years. There has never been a show as presented by shale gas: increasing from essentially zero to one third of US natural gas production. The implications on the nation’s economy, the creation of real, high-paying jobs and “energy independence” will be huge and lasting. Energy abundance is the litmus of a thriving economy a stark contrast from renewable gobbledygook.
Of course the transition from coal to natural gas for power generation has other implications. We all understand the clean-air benefits of one less coal plant, but few may know the significant water savings involved. A recent Webber Group study compared lifecycle volumes of fresh water required to produce electricity from coal vs. natural gas. The study found on average Texas coal extraction consumes over seven times as much freshwater per kilowatt hour as Texas natural gas extraction – in fact, converting coal plants in Texas to natural gas could reduce freshwater consumption by over 50 billion gallons per year.
And then there’s the specific economics. The majority of coal used in Texas for power generation is imported from other states – that’s less jobs and revenue to Texas. Natural gas companies in Texas support 1.3 million jobs and pay five times more in state and local taxes and royalties on a per-job basis than the average company in other industries – a contribution of about $100 billion a year to our economy. Hard minerals (like coal) contribute about one-fiftieth to the average local tax base than natural gas.
All this, and the price of electricity can remain affordable, thanks to Texas’ massive natural gas supplies.
So, thanks White Stallion, but what took you so long?
Michael Economides is Editor-in-Chief of the Energy Tribune