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Texas Watches State of the Union with an Eye on Energy

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Even before the President’s State of the Union Address was over last night, some environmental and renewable energy groups were sending out congratulatory emails.

“We thank President Obama for his leadership” read one from the Solar Energy Industries Association. The speech outlined “clean energy solutions”  said the group Environment Texas.

And while some observed that the president’s proposals lacked specifics, most agreed that he was sounding a bolder tone on global climate change.

“Climate change, it’s no longer a forbidden topic,” Michael Webber, co-chair of UT Austin’s Clean Energy Incubator and head of the Webber Energy Group told StateImpact Texas.

He said a few of the President’s proposals could specifically impact the economy and environment right here in Texas.

“There is a lot of good news for Texas in this speech, especially the emphasis in natural gas and other low carbon fuel in reducing red tape for oil and gas production and reinvesting in new pipelines,” he said.

Webber points out that Texas companies control a lot of pipelines across the country. Some of those companies might see his call for investment in U.S. energy infrastructure as good news.

The industry group America’s Natural Gas Alliance(which has donated to KUT in the passed) released a statement applauding the President’s plan to encourage gas drilling on federal lands. Though that call earned criticism from anti-fracking activists online.

Though some had speculated he would announce new initiatives to curb CO2 emissions from existing coal plants, Mr. Obama did not go that far. Instead, he left the door open for more EPA regulation on CO2 in his speech.

“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations,” he said, ” will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

Many Texas officials probably took notice of that comment. After all, the EPA and the state of Texas have been engaged in a series of lawsuits over regulation since the president’s first term in office.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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