The following column originally appeared in the San Antonio Business Journal on August 6, 2019.
The Texas economy is flush with industries that save and improve lives every day. From agriculture and transportation to manufacturing and oil and natural gas, Texas industry is meeting Texans’ needs with an ever-shrinking environmental footprint. This progress is happening because of multibillion-dollar investments in technologies that are protecting and improving the environment.
The Texas oil and natural gas industry recognizes climate progress as a global responsibility and stands out as the leading investor in zero- and low-carbon technology. In fact, the industry invested more than $301.5 billion in greenhouse gas-mitigating technologies between 2000 and 2016, which is more than the investments by other U.S. private sector industries and the federal government combined during the same time period. These investments are occurring right in our backyard in the Eagle Ford Shale, including best practices put forth by the Environmental Partnership, and they are yielding tangible, exciting results.
Natural gas, now our state’s and our nation’s leading source of electricity generation, is credited with driving U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to their lowest levels since 1992. Methane emissions from onshore U.S. oil and natural gas production fell 24%, while oil and natural gas production rose 65% and 19%, respectively, from 2011 to 2017, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Information Administration. The U.S. Global Change Research Program reports that North American CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion have declined on average by 1% per year over the last decade, “largely because of … greater use of natural gas and increased vehicle fuel efficiency standards.” These environmental achievements are proof that we don’t have to sacrifice our state’s best paying jobs to protect the environment. We can and will continue to do both.
However, climate action plans like the one put forth for San Antonio that aim to phase out fossil fuels like oil and natural gas ignore this overwhelming evidence proving that environmental investments like these really do work — while keeping Texans healthy and safe and our nation secure. Misconceived plans also threaten economic growth and the budgets of families and local businesses.
Cities, states and nations that have pursued unsustainable energy policies have forced their residents to shoulder electricity bills that have skyrocketed anywhere from 24% to 100%.
In 2012, nearly 1 million California households spent more than 10% of their income on electricity bills due to expensive renewable energy generation. This year, New York residents were forced to pay twice as much for heat due to a transition away from natural gas. Abroad, Germany has seen a 51% increase in electricity costs after switching to solar and wind energy.
But you only have to travel 100 miles north on Interstate 35 to see the fallout when a city forces an all-renewable energy mandate on its residents. Families in Georgetown have seen electricity bills increase by over $150 in just the last year, and more unwelcomed surprises are planned. The city announced yet another increase as it scrambles to make its energy policy economically viable on the backs of ratepayers.
San Antonio’s recently proposed climate action and adaptation plan threatens a similar, if not exact, fate for its residents.
The San Antonio City Council is considering a draft climate action and adaptation plan that includes mitigation strategies that will threaten our reliable, affordable and abundant energy, putting San Antonio’s residents and economy at risk. A call for a complete phase out of fossil fuels will cause electricity prices for families and businesses across Bexar County to skyrocket, just as they have elsewhere. Transportation will become increasingly inaccessible as electric vehicle mandates are enforced. New development will become unaffordable. The city’s growth will be dramatically suppressed.
San Antonio’s plan also ignores the ramifications of attempting to eliminate an industry that drives an enormous part of the South Texas economy. Oil and natural gas is the lifeblood of Texas. The industry drives our economy and funds our public schools, universities, roads and first responders. Texas-produced oil and natural gas is abundant, safe and reliable. It makes us less dependent on foreign countries to meet our energy needs. And while oil and natural gas production has increased dramatically in the past decade, elevating the U.S. to become the top oil and natural gas producer in the world, we simultaneously have the cleanest air in a generation.
We must say “no” to radical climate action plans that dangerously gamble with families’ futures, our economic stability and our energy security. We should say “yes” to a cleaner, stronger energy future made possible by the investments in technology that are making a difference today and will continue to promote climate progress tomorrow. This is the only plan San Antonio needs in order to have the energy that powers modern living with lower environmental impact and improved products and operations.
Todd Staples is president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association and is a former Texas agriculture commissioner.