Corpus Christi Caller-Times
CORPUS CHRISTI — We’ve all heard the saying “everything is bigger in Texas.” When people envision the Lone Star State, they see 10-gallon hats, wide open spaces, immense economic opportunity, and a state bursting with pride. Everything is bigger in Texas and that includes our energy bills.
Energy is the lifeblood of all Texas commerce. All facets of the Texas economy are undeniably affected by energy costs, none perhaps so critically as manufacturers and the 810,000 Texans they employ. Electricity is already one of the highest costs for manufacturers that provide high quality jobs, high paying jobs. In fact, Texas manufacturing workers earn 41 percent more than the rest of the workforce.
These jobs and manufacturers’ central role in the Texas economy prompted the Texas Association of Manufacturers to urge lawmakers to exercise caution when considering subsidizing expensive renewable energy sources. A recent study released by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation recommended mandated use of renewable energy but did not discuss job loss associated with dramatic increases in the cost of electricity that would result from mandated renewable subsidies.
Under the study’s “best case scenario,” the electric rate increase would cost a large manufacturing facility between $5 million and $10 million every year. These are costs that are siphoned out of payroll, benefits, research and development, and equipment upgrades that improve energy efficiency. You can’t raise prices without losing somewhere else and sadly, some of that loss is going to be jobs.
Proponents of mandated subsidies for renewable energy will often point to jobs created by expanded use of renewable power sources. However, while manufacturing workers enjoy some of the best-paying jobs in the economy, jobs associated with renewable energy markets are fewer in number, lower paying, and shorter term, according to a study by the King Juan Carlos University.
Texas manufacturers have consistently supported properly structured incentives — versus mandates and subsidies to expand renewable energy use and bringing renewable jobs to Texas. While diversifying our energy portfolio is important, policy-makers must be innovative in creating incentives to encourage proven investments — without mandates or subsidies shouldered by existing Texas manufacturers and employers.
With a marginal economy enduring unemployment rates above 8 percent, our state leaders should be taking every step possible to protect the high quality jobs we have. To ensure our economic prosperity and to simply remain globally viable, Texas needs sound energy policy to diversify our energy portfolio in ways that are cost-effective, reliable and mindful of the jobs currently powering the Texas economy.
Luke Bellsnyder is the executive director of the Texas Association of Manufacturers.