The Time for CPS to Seize the Moment is Now!
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
April 25, 2006

Last week I covered rolling blackouts and the three keys to energy sufficiency, i.e., conservation, efficiency and renewable energy in addition to our current use of coal and natural gas. This week I am sharing with you my comments at the recent CPS Public Hearing on their rate hike request. As always, I invite and encourage your comments.

"So far this week we have had a Texas energy-first: rolling electrical blackouts. Then we have seen the highest historic prices for oil, gasoline just pennies away from $3 per gallon, and CPS announce natural gas rate hikes. Oh, and we may need to start water rationing at the same time we deal with unseasonably warm weather quite possibly due to global climate change.

I am here tonight to make a suggestion relative to the continued promotion and provision of natural gas for water heating purposes. Allow me to share some information I recently learned about from a technical publication.

A friend of mine used to say that, "If you're eating, you're into agriculture." Allow me to link being into energy with agriculture.

Last fall, "Two Gulf hurricanes and other factors [have] kept natural gas futures hovering near all-time highs. But with the accelerating depletion of reserves in North America, the intermittent gas crises we've been seeing since 2001 will start coming thicker and faster, finally merging into an era of permanent scarcity", according to Stan Cox of Alternet.

"Turn off the gas, and a lot of American families would have a hard time cooking dinner - but a lot of families in places like Nepal and Guatemala would have nothing to cook."

Nitrogen and human existence

A world of 6.4 billion people, on the way to 9 billion or more, needs more protein than the planet's croplands can generate from biologically provided nitrogen. Our species has become as physically dependent on industrially produced nitrogen fertilizer derived from natural gas as it is on soil, sunshine and water. And that means we're hooked on natural gas.

That means that without the use of industrially produced nitrogen fertilizer, about 2.5 billion people out of today's world population of 6.2 billion simply could never have existed.

If farming depended solely on naturally occurring and recycled nitrogen fertility, the planet's cropped acreage could feed only about 50 percent of the human population at today's improved nutrition levels', according to Vaclav Smil, distinguished professor at the University of Manitoba.

Solar energy provides an answer to how we can conserve the natural gas from which nitrogen is derived. Around half of the water heaters in use today are using natural gas. But since Texas has always had more sun that it has had oil or natural gas, why don't we change from natural gas to the heating of water through solar thermal hot water heaters?

Professor Smil reminds us that, ‘Nitrogen fertilizer made it possible for us to overpopulate the Earth, and now we're hooked. Someday, as reserves of fossil fuels dwindle, our descendents will come to inhabit a less crowded planet, on crops fed entirely by sunlight and natural fertility. Whether that future population decline happens humanely through planning and restraint or cruelly through catastrophe depends largely on how we manage nonrenewable resources, especially natural gas.'

As the nation's largest municipally owned energy company serving more than 310,000 natural gas customers in and around the eighth largest city in the U. S. and having earned the highest financial ratings of any electric system in the nation, I look to you for your leadership in not just ways that demonstrate transactional leadership, providing some of the cheapest electrical rates in the country and great employment for our community as well as more than 200 million dollars to the City of San Antonio.

I look to you for your transformational leadership in making ample provision for the future…not just the next twenty-five years, but the next 100 years, for our grandchildren, not just our children. I look for you to change the way our electrical generating business is done if not for the sake of ample food production, then for the hostage ratepayers of the future. Help us kick the natural gas habit, accelerate the shift to a sustainable future and not one tied to ever-escalating energy coming from places across the globe that are distant, uncertain and hostile to our country.

Provide rebates for solar thermal water heating systems for starters. Your transformational leadership in changing the way business is done will ultimately distinguish you beyond your present very credible status. You have the wherewithal to reach the top rung of the latter. Go for it!"

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