Texas Governor Signs Retaliatory Order In Response to Biden Climate Action

Panther Creek wind farm, Howard County, Texas. Image: Wikimedia Commons

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed his own executive order last Thursday in response to President Joe Biden’s executive orders on climate change aimed at transitioning the U.S. away from fossil fuel use and toward a clean energy economy, pause drilling on federal lands, and targeting federal fossil fuel subsidies.

Abbott claimed that Biden’s order “will be trying to take actions that will make it harder, more difficult and, more costly” for fossil fuel businesses in Texas, which continue to be major economic drivers in the region. Despite this, Texas has the opportunity to be a national leader in clean energy-production if the state would simply reach out and take it. 

Why This Matters: Texas has always been a leader in energy production, and currently provides 20% of domestically produced energy in the U.S. The state has prioritized oil, natural gas, and coal investments, developing large swaths of land for oil derricks even as recently as 2018. But now, oil demand is at an all-time low, and experts say there isn’t a rebound on the horizon. And with Coronavirus devastating oil communities in West Texas, this moment in Texas history presents a crossroads: go all-in on oil and gas, or cash out and start building clean, sustainable energy. 

Sustainability in Texas: Solar energy, meanwhile, has been facing a period of unprecedented growth in the state. The same flat, sun-soaked land where oil companies built hundreds of wells and oil derricks (and sometimes abandoned them) is prime real estate for solar farms. One such farm in Nolan County is a small town’s size and produces enough power to fuel 40,000 homes with its 709,000 panels. Additionally, Texas already leads the nation in wind-generated energy, which overtook coal in proportion to Texas energy for the first time this year.

Abbott’s Order: The order asked state agencies to “work to identify potential litigation, notice-and-comment opportunities, and any other means of preventing federal overreach within the law.” Abbott has threatened to fire agency heads who fail to comply. The order also prevents state or local legislation that would ban the installation of natural gas appliances. Abbott pointed to similar legislation in San Francisco, which banned natural gas appliances in all future developments. 

Many critics see the retaliatory order as an overreaction, and Abbott himself admitted that “either zero or close to zero” drilling is done on public lands, and nearly all drilling will be unaffected by Biden’s directive. Although a few Democratic state congressional members have sided with Abbott, the Texas Democratic Party is critical. Party spokesperson Abhi Rahman said that Abbott is not “being honest with working Texans,” and that, “to save Texas energy, we need to demand new leadership in this state that is honest, upfront with Texans, and embraces the future.”

 

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