Governor of Texas, No. 1 in US wind power, showboats over fossil fuels


Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) wants to fight Biden’s clean energy plan, despite being the No. 1 state in the US for wind power. Texas is also a rising star of solar power, not to mention the home of Tesla’s Gigafactory Texas. Yet, Abbott has issued an executive order to “protect” Texas’ energy industry from federal overreach, or in other words, President Joe Biden’s endorsement of clean energy. Or to put it another way, what Texas is already doing.

Why Abbott is being ridiculous, part 1

As Electrek reported in February 2020, Texas is a leader in US clean energy:

 The Lone Star State leads the US with the most energy generated by wind power, and now it’s ramping up solar, which is projected to be the fastest-growing contributor to the state’s power grid in the next three years.

Texas is expected to add 5.5GW of capacity from new utility-scale solar projects this year (via the Houston Chronicle). Most of the planned solar projects are expected to come online before summer 2021.

Further, in November 2019, Electrek reported that, albeit for different reasons, both Democrats and Republicans nearly equally support solar, which is both increasingly turning into the cheapest form of energy and also a clean form of energy.

Why Abbott is being ridiculous, part 2

Abbott visited the Permian Basin late last week and announced during a news conference in Odessa that he would be signing an executive order that directs all state agencies to challenge any federal action “that threatens the continued strength, vitality, and independence of the energy industry.”

Rigzone reports:

US President Joe Biden signaled ‘extreme hostility’ toward the energy industry by rejoining the ‘job-killing’ Paris Agreement and signing Executive Order 13990, which revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, Abbott highlighted in his order. He also outlined that order 13990 directed the US Environmental Protection Agency to rescind its 2020 methane rule ‘as an apparent prelude to burdensome new regulation of the energy industry’s emissions in Texas and in sister states’ and warned that more and greater threats to the Texas energy sector seem imminent ‘as President Biden embraces Green New Deal policies.’

Oil and gas are still big business in Texas – they make up around one-third of the gross state product. But as we alluded above, [via KCBD] Abbott acknowledged at his news conference that in Texas, there is “either zero or close to zero” federal land where drilling is done. So Biden’s 60-day freeze on new oil drilling on federal lands has next to no impact on Texas.

Responding to Abbott’s news conference, the Texas Democratic Party said Abbott was not ‘being honest with working Texans,’ noting that the state’s energy industry is still hurting and its path forward is through renewable sources, not fossil fuels.

Which, funnily enough, is exactly what Texas is doing. Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, said:

[Abbott’s] head-in-the-sand approach to global warming makes no sense when Texas could lead in solving the crisis by taking full advantage of our abundant clean energy resources and technological know-how.

Electrek’s Take

My stance is slightly different from Metzger’s, although I agree with him and global warming. Abbott is just never going to put global warming first and foremost; he’s always going to be about money and jobs.

Republicans tend to adopt renewables for economic reasons, not to fight climate change. Texas is doing a roaring trade in both wind and solar. So instead of holding a nonsensical news conference in the Permian Basin defending dying fossil fuels, what Abbott should have done is talked about how Texas is the biggest in wind and solar – because we know how Texans like that everything’s big in Texas – and how renewables are going to replace the inevitably dying fossil-fuel jobs. (Plus, he just plain lied about the Paris Agreement being a job killer.)

Employers reported the greatest overall difficulty in hiring workers for jobs in Electric Power Generation. So instead of championing pollutants, how about announcing incentives to train and attract talent to that sector, since jobs are going unfilled?

Employers reported the following as the three most difficult occupations to hire

  1. Technician or mechanical support – $20.00 median hourly wage
  2. Electrician/construction laborers – $22.08 median hourly wage
  3. Sales, marketing, or customer service – $33.51 median hourly wage

But instead, Abbott chose to ignore Biden’s call for unity and instead pick a fight with a pointless executive order about something his state is already successfully doing.

And here’s the real kicker about Texas, according to the US Energy and Employment Report 2019:

Wind makes up the largest segment of employment related to electric power generation, with 25,386 jobs (up 0.6%), followed by traditional fossil fuel generation at 12,709 jobs (up 1.9%).

Further, 9,612 people were employed in 100% solar and 1,576 in hydroelectric.

There are 162,816 energy efficiency jobs in Texas, which represent 7% of all US energy efficiency jobs. It was projected to grow 7.4% when the report was issued.

And if he’s got a problem with electric vehicles and is concerned about fuel workers, then he can take it up with GM CEO Mary Barra, as the race is on to EVs. I’m guessing he has no problem with Elon Musk’s Gigafactory Texas?

Abbott doesn’t need to get onboard. His state is already onboard. He needs to stop pretending that it’s not, because he’s lying to the people of Texas.

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