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Texas can supply the world with its energy needs and blaze a trail that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while building clean energy infrastructure.
Just as the Texas Revolution gave rise to the battle cry, Remember the Alamo, today’s energy crisis gives rise to another — Midland, not Moscow.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent international realignment of energy exports transformed a regional war into a global energy emergency. The world’s safety and security are at stake. Texas is the new frontier for cleaner fossil fuel production and an expanded portfolio that includes breakthrough technologies such as carbon capture, hydrogen, and geothermal energy.
Propelled by a substantial increase in production over the past decade in the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale, the U.S. recently surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer. In 2020, the U.S. supplied nearly one in five barrels consumed worldwide, 50 percent more than Russia.
This success story is not enough, however. Global markets need more energy and consumers of every stripe want cleaner, affordable energy. Texas can help meet this growing demand — in part by leveraging newly available federal funds and innovations — especially since the Russians are unlikely to play fair or clean.
Texas should first use its existing oil and gas resources advantageously, producing oil with the lowest possible emissions and further differentiating our production from Russia’s. By increasing efficiency and the use of renewable energy in the production process, and leading the development of carbon capture technology and preventing methane leakage system-wide, Texas can reduce industry emissions by 40 percent. To achieve this goal, however, both industry and state regulators must identify ways to certify cleaner hydrocarbon production.
Norway, Saudi Arabia, Oman and others are already pursuing these 21st century strategies. By taking the lead on them, Texas can supply the world with its energy needs and blaze a trail that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while building clean energy infrastructure.
Second, Texas must counter Moscow’s energy aspirations by adding zero-emissions technologies to the state’s energy portfolio. A recent report from Texas 2036 and the Center for Public Finance at Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy shows that hydrogen, carbon capture technology and geothermal energy can satisfy the growing global demand for cleaner energy. Moreover, recent congressional legislation makes billions available for these emerging technologies.
By taking a lead in these emerging industries that are part of an energy expansion, Texas and the U.S. will gain a significant competitive advantage over Russia and others in global energy markets, improving global sustainability in the process.
Russia produces some of the world’s dirtiest oil and gas. A recent analysis by RMI indicates that Russian gas creates at least twice as many emissions as Texas gas. And a scientific study using satellites detected Russia’s leaky oil and gas systems, which can be seen from space and are estimated to emit one million tons of methane per year — three times more than the U.S. In fact, each “ultra emitter” (over 25 tons of methane per hour) spotted spews as much carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in a year as four million cars, melting the permafrost along the pipelines.
The world will face a significant impediment to achieving sustainable goals if Russia is allowed to move forward with its plans to meet the projected doubling of global energy demand by 2050 through its Energy Strategy for 2035. Their first major foray is a $140 billion Siberian megaproject called Vostok designed to export millions of tons of oil through the Arctic skirting the North Pole. Russia’s Faustian bargain is that climate change will melt sea ice and open the northern passage to their unrestricted energy exports.
If the war in Ukraine has taught us anything, it’s that Russia’s energy hegemony will not bring peace. If Russia reclaims the energy mantle, price manipulation and supply embargos may well follow — Russia has used these weapons against the EU and its former Soviet neighbors time and again.
Given Russia’s designs and methods, America’s strategic energy race is the race of a lifetime. And Texas is uniquely positioned to lead the nation’s counter to Russia’s plans. Precisely how we do this is key.
It is not enough to boycott Russian oil and gas imports and investments while the war rages. There is too much at stake to allow Russia to expand its energy dominance.
Instead, the U.S. can double down on cleaner energy now. There’s no place better than Texas to make the first move.
Deborah Gordon is a senior principal at RMI and senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Her new book, No Standard Oil (Oxford University Press) was published in January 2022. Jeremy Mazur is a Senior Policy Advisor at Texas 2036. This op ed first ran in the Houston Chronicle.
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