Climate Change and Denton’s Hard Choice

Josh Fox’s new film about climate change is an aesthetic jolt and a moral gong. The first half hauls you along in a locomotive of bad news about the planet, accelerating and crashing into a wall of despair. Climate change is a waking nightmare.

The second half doesn’t lift the rock of anxious gloom. It doesn’t say that we’ll all be alright if we just change our light bulbs. Rather, it tries to sculpt that heavy fear into an anchor of resolve. It tells stories of the virtues we need if we are to overcome: courage, creativity, democracy, and most importantly – joy. It is said that the warrior can only keep fighting because he knows he is already dead. You have to let go of self. Our situation is the result of our inability to manage desire. “Development” multiplies desires and transforms them into needs. But we are the ones who are under-developed – spiritually shallow, debilitated by needs, distracted by things.

I wonder about climate change and children. How and when to tell them the bad news? It’s like Santa Claus – all that so-called supernatural activity was just us. All those so-called natural disasters are just us. Welcome to cold hard reality…our gift to you is an existential question the likes of which the human race has never before seen. Good luck, kid.

The framing of the film is one that resonates with little d. It begins with Fox celebrating a local victory over fracking. He dances and then wants to rest easy but cannot, because the global catastrophe of climate change won’t leave his home alone. We too cannot

The Renewable Denton Plan is our moment of truth about the climate. If we are to do our part, we need to get this decision right. I so desperately want us to get this decision right.

It’s tough, because RDP is being sold as a climate fix of major proportions: 74% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But the resistance to it is largely from those concerned about the climate: That figure isn’t right or it’s not good enough.

We’ve got to figure this out. I don’t care about rancor and animosity along the way as long as we get this right.

At this point, we are thinking about how to structure the independent review of the plan. So, here are some of my ideas.

It needs to be conducted by a competent and trustworthy organization that has no dog in the fight. They need to report to City Council and have access to all relevant information.

I think they should answer the following questions:

  1. Do you agree with the cost and emission estimates from DME for all the scenarios they have put forward?
  2. What other scenarios can achieve the stated goal of cost-effectively maximizing renewables (or reducing reliance on fossil fuels)?
  3. Do you concur that the California health impact study is a reliable analogue to the proposed RDP scenario?

For example, will the 100% renewable option cost as much as DME says it will (or will it cost less…or more)? If you think it will be different, why? Will the RDP cost what DME says it will and will it have the emissions reductions claimed? What about the 83% plan? The 70% one? Etc.

Is there a cost-effective strategy that could allow us to phase in new batteries and renewables over time to be genuinely (no fossil back-up) 100% renewable by 2030? If so, what do the short-term emissions look like as we ramp up…does this lock us into Gibbons Creek?

If there are differences in findings, we need to brace for a dueling expert situation. It’s not likely that differences will be the result of simple math errors. Rather, they’ll will hinge on different methods, assumptions, data-sets, projections, etc. For example, there are different projections for the price of natural gas across the next fifty years. Ditto for renewables and batteries. We’ll be in a position of trying to judge which assumptions, methods, and projections are most sound and we can’t appeal to the experts, because they will be in disagreement. That’s ok – it’s the day-to-day stuff of courtroom battles and science policy debates – I’m just saying we should be ready to shoulder this work as the stuff of democracy and community self-determination.

If an independent review confirms RDP as the most cost-effective way to slash GHG emissions, then do we swallow hard and embrace the counter-intuitive position of building gas plants to save the climate?

I don’t know…partly because “cost-effective” is ambiguous. Just how much of a rate hike is morally acceptable? Hopefully we won’t need to raise rates at all to meet strong climate goals. But what if, for example, an independent review concurs with DME about the costs of the 100% or 83% options? Is that kind of rate hike morally acceptable…what would it mean…lost jobs and tax revenue…harm to the poor…or might it spawn a boom resulting from the leadership image we’d cultivate…could we finagle the rate structure to shelter the vulnerable from economic hardship…?

I do not want fracked-gas power plants built in Denton. I want to do our part to address climate change. The ideal scenario: a cost-effective plan that slashes emissions more than RDP without building gas plants. I’m glad we are taking our time to see if we can find that solution. I so hope it is out there.


9 thoughts on “Climate Change and Denton’s Hard Choice

  1. “we should be ready to shoulder this work as the stuff of democracy and community self-determination.”

    I have come to learn that the cold hard truth is never a quick and easy fix. There will be no “dancing” for some time to come. Perhaps a little toe tapping however, to keep us sane while riding this out.

  2. It was brought up last night by Josh that the DME’s main concern is to maintain a cost effective rate for commercial businesses and not residential user. I will be interested to watch or listen to Josh’s meeting with DME. He was very critical of their motives, calculations and stated DME said their directive from council was to keep rates low for commercial use. It this is the case then everything DME has presented to public comes into question. The council’s motives and directives come into question and who should be recalled and who should voted out of office becomes clearer. There was too much of a rush, and still is, too get this approved before the May elections, WHY? The citizens have proven we want, need and demand clean energy and we never back down from a fight.
    Josh has suggested a town hall meeting with renewable energy expert so let’s do it and then let the chips fall where they may in May. The movie was a turning point for me. I have been burned out from the fracking battle but I can’t stop now.

  3. It is so clear. No more fossil fuel infrastructure. Period. Every city that is being pushed in the way we are simply needs to say NO. Now.

  4. The choice is so damn easy for me. I don’t care if I have to sit in the dark at night. I will gladly share all that I have with others. I will do anything so that my children do not have to live in the hellish nightmare that is coming if we all build gas plants. This is the easiest choice I’ve ever faced.

  5. Sharon: “This is the easiest choice I’ve ever faced.”

    No sell it to those Sharon who have not been convinced about the urgency of this without being over bearing. How would you draw them into your confidence where thy feel more welcomed than frightened?

    It may seem inconsequential but I have come to learn that there really isn’t any other way with a lot of people who are willing to be convinced if the facts are laid out properly.

    You could of course invite them to review you blog postings from day one but who has the time to do this? 🙂

  6. There is no lock in with Gibbons Creek. Even with the 2011 scrubber update, it will be decommissioned within 5-10 years as it nears the 50 year life of the plant. And as has been discussed before if Denton withdraws from TMPA, someone else will buy up their share at fire sale prices. In 2003 DME sold the Spencer Road plant and the hydroelectric generators at Ray Roberts and Lewisville to Garland Power and Light for $2 million. DME has not received a fair price for any generation assets they have sold in the 21st century. Do you think they will receive a decent cash price for these quick start plants in 15 years when carbon pricing will finally be a reality or will be within view on the horizon. One doesn’t have to look at global warming or criteria pollutants to see that the plan doesn’t make financial sense.

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