Friday, September 12, 2008

Hot air from Hardcastle: “We have killed the TTC in the Legislature so many times, and the governor would bring it back."

A solution to energy woes

September 12, 2008

David Rupkalvis
The Graham Leader
Copyright 2008

State Rep. Rick Hardcastle said a ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin is exactly what Texas needs, especially when you consider Palin’s experience in the oil and gas industry.

Hardcastle told the Young County Republican Women that he has worked with both McCain and Palin and considers both excellent choices to lead the country.

“John is a friend of mine,” he said. “He’s a mentor of mine because he says it like it is. I’m excited, and Gov. Palin just adds to it. How neat is it to know you have a candidate who can get up, go moose hunting, field dress her moose and still get to work in state government?”

As chairman of the state’s Energy Commission, Hardcastle said a lot of his time is spent working to ensure Texas never runs out of power. One thing he has learned over the last year is there is no one answer to the state’s future energy needs.

“We’re going to try to include everything in the mix,” he said. “We have the most abundant coal in the world. We’re working on uranium in Texas. We have five applications out today for nuclear power. Each one of those will replace four existing power plants.”

In addition, Hardcastle said wind energy, biofuels, natural gas and even oil will play a role.

The big push in rural Texas is wind energy which Hardcastle called a huge “blessing” and a huge “challenge.” He explained that wind energy has been a lifesaver for small counties in rural Texas. At the same time it is causing major headaches because the state is having a hard time controlling the electricity that is put in the power transmission system.

Hardcastle explained that by federal law, wind farms are permitted to put energy into the system at all times. Since the lines only carry so much, it makes it difficult to gauge what to expect because the wind speeds are constantly changing. He did say the state is working to expand its transmission system to handle both wind and power plant electricity.

The final answer to the state’s and nation’s energy woes is yet to be determined, but Hardcastle said he is confident Americans can find a solution.

“Energy is going to be a big debate,” he said. “We need an Apollo project in energy. When the government decided we were going to the moon, we got kevlar, we got radial tires, we got a whole lot. We need that kind of effort in energy.”

Hardcastle also said despite claims from Democrats that there could be a political power shift in Texas, he fully expects to be part of the majority in January.

“The opposition has this great dream that they will take us out and have a new speaker of the house,” he said. “As of yesterday, they had a chance to pick up one seat in the Senate, and there’s three seats that are competitive in the House. We don’t expect things to change a whole lot except to keep getting better.”

While high prices for oil and natural gas have put a crimp on the budgets of many Texans, it has been a big boom for the state.

“We have money in the bank,” Hardcastle said. “We can finance our schools, we can finance more property tax relief. All that is there because of the severance tax in oil and gas.”

Hardcastle said the new legislative session could have some political fights as legislators work to resolve differences on key issues. One area where he expects the debate to be especially heated is in appraisal caps.

“Several new people are talking about appraisal caps,” Hardcastle said. “Appraisal caps are a really dangerous proposition. How do you put a limit on local government? Voters can do that through the ballot box. It will continue to be an issue. We expect quite a fight this year.”

Another key issue in 2009 will be eminent domain. The Legislature passed an eminent domain law last year, but it was vetoed by the governor.

“Eminent domain is coming back,” Hardcastle said. “There was some really petty stuff that caused it to get vetoed last time. Hopefully we’ll put it together so it won’t get vetoed. We’re hoping to get there.”

One issue that isn’t likely to pass the Legislature is the Trans Texas Corridor, Hardcastle said. While transportation is still a key issue, the Trans Texas Corridor is not the way to do it, he said.

“We have killed the Trans Texas Corridor so many times,” Hardcastle said. “It has a life of its own. We’d kill it in the Legislature, and the governor would bring it back. That’s another reason you stay in local government. A little thing like that can take off on its own. We’re working to keep it killed.”

© 2008 The Graham

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