OPINION: Energy transition? Texans should plan expansion.

Published 12:51 am Saturday, December 18, 2021

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By Tom Luce and Jeremy Mazur

Texas embraces everything about energy — especially what’s new.

Texans struck oil at Spindletop in 1901, and it would have been easy to sit back and relax after that.

But that’s not our style. Instead, we pioneered the fracking revolution that created an unprecedented oil boom. We invested early in transmission lines, harvesting wind and solar power to become one of the nation’s leading renewable energy generators.

Now, another opportunity presents itself. Market interests and public policy are pushing for more, cleaner energy. The choice between “business as usual” or heeding this call carries tremendous implications for our economic future.

Some call this a transition. Texans will recognize this as an energy expansion, however.

Experience tells us that any path to energy growth and sustainability requires embracing new strategies that help traditional fuels burn cleanly and efficiently while also deploying emerging technologies onto the grid. As the world’s turbulent energy markets demonstrate, it’s unwise to discard competitive forms of energy even as markets demand them.

Fortunately, Texas is primed to lead an energy expansion. But, more than that, failing to embrace this expansion invites ruin. Today, energy planning presents nothing less than a choice between growth and prosperity or enduring decline — a continued Texas miracle or Rust Belt-level stagnation.

Well-designed energy expansion offers significant growth opportunities for existing industries, especially within the oil and gas sector — and it opens doors for new and emerging technologiesbusinesses and entrepreneurs. Coupled with ongoing leadership in renewable energy and energy storage, innovations like carbon capture, hydrogen-fueled energy, geothermal power generation offer more jobs, investment, and economic growth.

These innovations could meet the world’s growing market and energy demands even as they create a healthier planet. In the absence of a developed carbon market, however, these fledgling technologies need incentives to grow.

Buried within the 1,039 pages of the federal bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are critical opportunities to catalyze Texas’ energy expansion — provided we embrace the moment and actively apply for available funding. They include $10 billion for carbon-capture technology grants, large-scale carbon sequestration and transportation, and grants for regional direct air carbon capture hubs — perfect opportunities for Houston and Corpus Christi.

The bill allocates $8 billion to create four regional clean hydrogen hubs that showcase and jump start the use of hydrogen as a fuel source, and it establishes a grant program for clean hydrogen manufacturing and research. By pioneering the development of hydrogen-based energy, Texas can once again transform the world’s energy use in ways that capitalize on our rich natural resources.

The new infrastructure act also creates a clean energy demonstration program using solar or geothermal energy on current or former mine land, unlocking opportunities in sites that stretch from the Rio Grande Valley to northeast Texas.

And the bill offers $11 billion in grants to enhance electric grid reliability and resiliency against extreme weather events and cyber-attacks.

These are tremendous opportunities for Texas. If Texas fails to seize the energy future, other states will. State and local leaders must pursue these opportunities to ensure Texas’ energy industry does not get left behind.

To protect our energy dominance, Texas 2036 calls on state, industry, academic and environmental leaders to join us in developing a strategic blueprint that defines a path forward through public policy and private-sector involvement.

Organizing state agencies and regional partners for success will be critical to our pursuit of new avenues towards energy expansion. This blueprint enables us to take stock of Texas’ strengths, especially within the oil and gas industry, and identify recommendations for the Legislature and industry to leverage those assets towards maximizing this opportunity.

The energy expansion is coming, with or without Texas. The world needs our expertise, experience, and leadership. Our future depends on it.

Tom Luce is founder and chair of Texas 2036. Jeremy Mazur is senior policy advisor at Texas 2036. This op ed first ran in the Houston Chronicle.