Sen. Sparks calls for power realignment

Over-emphasis on renewable energy has put Texas in a bind, he says

AUSTIN Representing 930,000 people in the enormous 31st Senatorial District from the Permian Basin to Amarillo and the Texas High Plains, newly sworn-in State Sen. Kevin Sparks wants to help secure the state’s energy grid by building more natural gas-fired plants and developing more nuclear power generation.

Just getting started in the 88th Legislature, the Midland Republican said in a wide-ranging interview with the Odessa American that the state has dilly-dallied long enough with renewable energy.

“One thing that’s got to happen is to rebalance the market parameters and encourage the creation of dispatchable power, which means I can fire this thing up and be generating electricity in 15 or 20 minutes as opposed to intermittent power like wind and solar,” Sparks said.

“For the last 20 years, federal subsidies have distorted the power generation market into wind and solar, so there has not been the financial incentive for industry to go in and construct any other type of generation. We need more natural gas-fired generation and we need to look at creating additional nuclear baseload.

“When you look at the grid, you know we have X-amount of need that runs all the time and we have times when we require more power like between 2 and 7 p.m. in the summer. That’s when this dispatchable power is needed.”

Sparks, an oilman, said Texas’ energy industry “is moving well,” but its leaders must plan for the future.

“We’re still short on experienced workers and we’ve got to get better on the education front from K through 12 and in upper-level education to help our students understand the career paths for working in the oil and natural gas industry,” he said.

Asked his view of the gas market, where the price has stayed untenably low for months, Sparks said, “It has to rebound eventually and when that happens my expectation is that we will continue to see the market strengthen.”

Beginning his first four-year term, the senator had been favorably impressed with a bill filed by Republican Rep. James Frank of Wichita Falls to improve the state’s foster care system.

“Attempts have been made for years to streamline foster care, but there has been very little positive outcome,” he said. “My hope and goal is to get it out of the state bureaucracy and back toward the communities.”

Sparks was encouraged by his appointments by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to the Texas Senate committees of health and human services, natural resources and economic development, veteran affairs, water, agriculture and rural affairs and nominations, of which he is the vice chairman.

“I’m pleased about all these committees,” he said. “I had asked for most of them because they line up with the issues that are important to our district. When I campaigned across the whole district, it was evident that all the constituents were very like-minded.

“Some Senate districts are partly rural and partly metro and our rural communities function a lot differently than the metro communities.”