Opinion: Texas could be the epicenter of the clean energy future

Austin American Statesman

Opinion: Texas could be the epicenter of the clean energy future


By: Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez       May 17, 2021

While everything, including our economy, is bigger in Texas, we are not immune to market forces that have long made working people the victims of the booms and busts in the oil and gas industry. From March to August of 2020, Texas lost 100,000 oil and gas jobs, and while some will say it’s only because of the COVID-19-induced economic recession, the truth is oil and gas jobs were already in decline. In fact, in 2018 and 2019 Texas’ growth in energy jobs wasn’t coming from oil and gas, but from advanced clean energy. Today, there are 161,000 oil and gas jobs in Texas and 254,000 advanced energy jobs.

Texas is the largest carbon emitter in the country, and yet no state can produce as much wind and solar energy as the Lone Star State. Texas’ status as the global energy capital of the country is under threat because of a lack of political will from many of our elected leaders who are refusing to invest the resources to make us a leader in renewable energy. Texas politicians should know it will devastate our economy to stand in the way of progress on this issue. Those who do are paving the way for California or China to eclipse us and become the leader in the clean energy economy. We have to make sure Texas wins this race.

Texans are proud to say that we don’t run away from big problems, we tackle them head-on. But when it comes to leading the global energy transition, many political leaders are burying their heads in the sand. Senator Ted Cruz still claims the “data is mixed” on whether climate change is real, even though 99% of scientists agree the data is clear that climate change is real and carbon emissions are causing it.

Even when Texas’ elected leaders like Senator John Cornyn acknowledge the reality of climate change, they like to paint the climate crisis as insurmountable and too expensive to solve. It isn’t. It’s completely solvable and millions of Americans’ lives would be better off for it—especially in Texas—if our elected leaders demonstrated the courage and vision to lead the global energy revolution already underway.

Texas is the largest wind producer in the country, producing nearly three times more than any state. Many people outside of Texas are surprised that a state so synonymous with oil and gas is actually leading the country in wind energy production. What’s more surprising is how Texas became a leader in wind energy. Despite having elected leaders who boast about Texas having as little government as possible, government intervention and investment led to Texas becoming number one in wind production.

Back in 1999, legislators set concrete goals for the percentage of energy Texas needed to generate from renewable sources and restructured the electricity system to start delivering a greater percentage of wind energy to consumers. Wind and solar occupations are now the fastest-growing jobs in America and they pay $16,000 more than most workers in Texas make annually. If Texas used the same formula of government investment to create a 100% clean energy economy, it would spur growth and create hundreds of thousands of more jobs in construction, manufacturing, and research and development.

Setting ambitious goals to meet the scale of the challenge and investing in the rapid transition to a clean energy economy could be one of the smartest and most effective ways to come out of our current economic recession. Many of the nation’s top economists predict that President Joe Biden’s climate plan would put millions of Americans back to work.

One thing is clear: no state has as much to gain or lose in the energy transition as Texas.

Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez is executive director of NextGen America, the nation’s largest youth voter mobilization organization. A former U.S. Senate candidate she authored a 1 million Good Green Jobs plan for Texas.

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.

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