For the first time in years, the state of Texas will have a deficit. But, unlike other states, Texas has a $10-billion rainy day fund that will be usable–although not easily accessible. It requires 100 votes in the House to expend any of that money, according to state District 60 Rep. Jim Keffer, chairman of the energy resources committee, who spoke recently at a Greater Irving Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“Without [the rainy day fund], we’d be up a creek without a paddle,” Keffer says.

Because of the oil and gas industry, Texas is in much better shape to handle the future than the other 49, Keffer says, noting that the 82nd Legislature will be interesting and volatile with issues such as re-districting.

When it comes to legislating and overseeing energy, one of the biggest concerns is the average 1,000 people a day moving into the state. Projected figures show more than 24.5 million people counted in the next census. By 2040 there will be an estimated 40 million people living in Texas, Keffer says.

“People want to move families and businesses here or expand businesses,” Keffer says. “The 82nd Legislature will set the course for what Texas will look like. . . we have to have a good viable business climate.”

Keffer says the oil and gas industry are critical to the state’s success as Texas is the largest oil producing state in the U.S. and one of the largest producers worldwide.

He noted that Exxon has returned to Hawkins Field, one of the state’s largest and oldest oil fields, with new technology. Keffer says the state’s future is bright for natural gas production. It is a growing industry providing one-quarter of the world’s natural gas production.

“It’s a wonderful time to be in that industry with all the finds,” he says. “But we are at a crossroads with Barnett Shale. We need to determine if the industry can co-exist with populated areas,” Keffer says. “We want a viable oil and gas industry because it brings so much money to the area.”

While oil and gas is the nucleus of the state’s energy resources, it’s not the only way to go, Keffer says. Renewable energy sources will meet 20% of the state’s energy needs by 2025. The state is allocating $5 billion to connect West Texas wind farms to Central Texas markets and $100 million for the Texas Clean Energy Project, designed to capture 90% of its carbon resulting in lower emissions than at any existing fossil-fueled power plant.

But, 80% will still be provided by fossil fuel or nuclear, he adds.

“We need to provide good research going forward with wind and solar and a commitment to clean coal.” The last legislative session set aside $100 million to look at clean coal.