Residents, scholars dispute Renewable Denton plan

Residents, scholars dispute Renewable Denton plan

March 26
14:51 2016

Adalberto Toledo | @aldot29

Julia Falcon | @falconpunch_

Denton residents packed a lecture hall Friday to hear experts from around the country talk about what they see as drawbacks to the Renewable Denton plan to bring Denton to 70 percent renewable energy usage by 2019.

The plan has been criticized for its proposal to build two natural gas plants, even after the city’s staunch opposition to natural gas operations in the city limits. The discussion was planned by people in the community curious about the Renewable Denton plan who claimed Denton Municipal Electric — the agent behind the plan — has not provided all the facts and data for citizens to have the complete picture.

One speaker, Mark C. Jacobson of Stanford University, said the natural gas plants the plan proposes are unnecessary.

“Wind is currently half the cost of [natural] gas, unsubsidized,” Jacobson said. “Solar power is actually cheaper than gas as well now. It makes sense not to [build].”

Initiated by a talk from Bob Howarth of Cornell University, the main topics included the dangers of continuing down the energy path the world is currently on. Though he did not provide any specific solutions, aside from weaning off of fossil fuels, the meeting continued with Jacobson providing many alternative energy sources suitable for Texas.

Condensed solar power systems, as well as wind power systems could both serve nearly 100 percent of Texas’ energy requirements by 2050, Jacobson said. Electrification, power derived from electricity gotten through alternative energy, is chief among Jacobson’s solutions to both climate change and the future of energy in the U.S.

“This transition will be difficult,” Jacobson said. “The key to electrification is to do it fast with the existing technologies.”

Natural gas plants are said to be beneficial, but Anne C. Epstein argued otherwise. During her presentation, Epstein told people the risks residents have in living so close to natural gas plants. She began by saying her speech was meant for those people who would live within a mile or so of the proposed plants — many audience members nodding at the relevance.

“They found that babies within a certain mile of gas plants are born prematurely,” Epstein said. “Much of this is due to air toxicity factor, it is increased if you are smaller, older or a baby.”

Epstein also said that unconventional gas and oil drilling are associated with increased hospitalization rates, with significant increases in cases of neurological and heart diseases.

Denton county resident Robin Gregory said the plants would be close to her home. She added the plant’s close proximity could mean diverse health effects, as Epstein pointed out earlier.

“For me, there is no point in talking to council,” Gregory said. “We need to make changes. Denton is already too polluted and too congested to move forward with this.”

Gregory continued with the difficulty she sees in pursuing alternative energy sources, as Texas politicians are “steeped in oil money.”

Nervous about climate change, Denton city councilwoman Keely Briggs has since last year argued against the quick pace of this energy policy, calling for more time to review the implications of the overall plan itself and to be open-minded about alternative sources of energy Denton could employ.

“It’s real political, that’s the biggest obstacle,” Briggs said. “If there’s anything that we can do that isn’t going to put a [financial] burden on our citizens, then we should go for that.”

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