Perry Breaks Wind Over Obama's Carbon Cuts

Staff in Governor Rick Perry's office must have had a case of the Mondays. It was noon before we got his emailed statement blasting the Obama administration's proposal to cut carbon emissions from power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels over the next 15 years.

Seriously? That was, like, hours, and we all knew the proposal was coming. You'd think Perry's staff would have this stuff programmed on a keyboard shortcut by now. Good IT help is so hard to find, isn't it?

What did Perry say, you ask? Oh, that. Well, stop us if you've heard this before ...

"President Obama's decision to impose drastic new restrictions on America's energy industry is the most direct assault yet on the energy providers that employ thousands of Americans, and fuel both our homes and our nation's economic growth. Americans have seen the disastrous results of federal mandates with Obamacare, and these rules will only further stifle our economy's sluggish recovery and increase energy costs for American families. If President Obama is truly interested in an 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy, he would do well to look to states like Texas that have seen tremendous success at diversifying energy sources while protecting the environment from harmful pollutants."

The air Texans breathe today is cleaner than it was in 2000, even as our population has grown by nearly 5.2 million people. Furthermore:

  • Over the last 10 years, Texas has added more than twice the jobs of any other state;
  • Statewide, from 2000-2012, nitrogen oxide levels from industrial sources were reduced by 62.5 percent; and
  • From 2000-2012 ozone levels were reduced by 23 percent, a 12 percent greater reduction than the national average.

Perry made similar claims during his failed presidential run in 2011, and his numbers are, we suppose, technically accurate. We guess. That doesn't make his statement any less deceptive.

As this handy 2011 chart from The New York Times points out, Texas has indeed made great strides in reducing greenhouse gasses, ozone and its precursor nitrogen oxide, but then the state HAD huge strides to make, since it ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in all three categories of air pollutants. We called the Environmental Defense Fund to get their take on Perry's statement and some newer numbers, and will update when we hear back. As a general rule, though, whenever a politician starts citing percentages, it's best to swallow a little salt, since it's not difficult to show large shifts in percentages if the baseline numbers are lousy to start with.

What's also frustrating about Perry's repeated claim that the Texas way is the better way on environmental regulation is that it ignores the simple fact that Texas, despite what many of its residents might wish, is part of the United States and subject to the same EPA rules as other states. It's likely that Texas' improvement in air quality was prompted by the very federal regulations that Perry has fought so strenuously against, and not because of anything the state has done. Perry claims credit for the effect, but he's mum on the cause.

Of course, Perry might not be the only one spewing a little hot air here. Obama's carbon proposal runs more than 600 pages, affects all 50 states and would take effect as an executive order, not as an act of Congress, which has been unwilling to act on carbon caps. And it has a target end-date of 2030 to achieve its goals.

Seeing how there'll be a few elections between now and then -- not to mention litigation -- we suggest you don't run out and sell all your coal company stocks just yet. If you're a student in law school, however, consider focusing on environmental law. It looks to be a growth industry.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

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