With spring’s emergence, memories of winter’s Polar Vortex begin to recede and lose their sting. Unfortunately, we know that these weather disasters will continue to occur with increased frequency and magnitude due to climate change. Texas needs a plan to address climate change and we have one — the Texas Climate Plan.
About two years ago, I decided to use my office to examine what Texans could do to impact climate change — it turns out, we can do a whole lot. Texas is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the country and a major emitter of methane. Carbon dioxide and methane are the primary greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. If Texas were a country, we would rank 7th in the world for our carbon dioxide emissions. Major sources of these greenhouse gases are the vehicles we drive, and the oil and gas industry.
After examining the data, we concluded that any national plan to combat climate change must have a substantial Texas component. I collaborated with several House Democrats to develop the Texas Climate Plan as a roadmap to reduce emissions.
The plan consists of four parts, beginning with: “Texas Jobs for a Changing Economy.” The clean energy economy is here, and we have a huge opportunity to benefit from this growth sector.
Since 2017, clean energy added jobs two times faster than national employment and 60% faster than fossil fuels in Texas. Our state is already a leader in electric and hybrid vehicle manufacturing with Tesla, Peterbilt Motors Co., Navistar, Toshiba Heavy Industries, Ayro, Volcon and Hyliion all located here. Major auto companies continue to announce an end to manufacturing gas-powered cars as they transition to electric vehicles. Clean energy job growth in Texas already outpaces fossil fuels, and provides higher paying wages – about 25% more than the median wage statewide. The “future” economy is already here and ripe for prosperity.
Part two of the plan is “Preserving Texas Resources and Industry Accountability.” Texas possesses a wealth of natural resources that have served as a source of economic strength for our state, but these resources must be preserved through responsible stewardship. For example, much of the methane that comes from the oil and gas industry comes from wasteful, routine venting and flaring of natural gas. In 2018 alone, Permian Basin oil and gas producers flared off enough to meet the entire state’s residential demand. Even the UT System can minimize venting and flaring on university lands to reduce the ecological footprint of oil production on public lands and maximize profits by directing this wasted gas to the market instead.
Part three of the plan provides for “Transparency to Empower Texans.” Our staff worked countless hours to unearth the data needed to build the Texas Climate Plan. Details on Texas’ environmental status should be readily available. Texans need transparent information to effectively engage policymakers and provide public oversight.
Part four of the plan, “Resiliency in a Changing Climate,” comes full circle to address the nightmarish “Texas Power Fail” in February. This man-made catastrophe could have been averted had we prepared for the effects of climate change. An estimated 200 Texans lost their lives during the Polar Vortex and damages are estimated at $195 billion — the costliest disaster in Texas history. To save lives and livelihoods, we must prepare for and prevent future extreme climate-related disasters.
As a Texan, I am proud of our energy dominance and the prosperity it has generated for our state. At the same time, we must recognize the negative byproducts of a fossil fuel economy. Texas will continue to be a leader in energy if we take advantage of new technologies that will power our homes and our economy without devastating our environment. We must confront a warming planet so Texans can continue to thrive. Texans are innately suited for this challenge because Texans do not fear the future. We lead it.
State Representative Gina Hinojosa
April 8, 2021