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IN-DEPTH: Texas oil, gas leaders criticize the Biden administration’s stance on energy



TX— Texas oil and gas leaders held a virtual conference for Texas Energy Day at the Capitol on Wednesday. Speakers at the event were vocal against the executive orders President Joe Biden issued, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and halting construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

United States rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement

Former President Trump left the Paris Agreement on Nov. 4, 2020, because he believed it put the United States at an economic disadvantage. However, the Biden administration rejoined the agreement 107 days later through an executive order on the first day of Joe Biden’s presidency.

“In implementing — and building upon — the Paris Agreement’s three overarching objectives (a safe global temperature, increased climate resilience, and financial flows aligned with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions and climate‑resilient development), the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global climate ambition to meet the climate challenge,” Biden’s executive order reads.

Since its inception, 197 countries have joined the Paris Climate Agreement, with the ultimate joint-goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The United States formally joined the Paris Agreement in September 2016 under the Obama administration. The only countries which majorly emit carbon dioxide that have not joined the agreement are Iran, Turkey and Iraq.

Those against further regulation of the energy sector argue that it will put the United States behind other global leaders in energy production, such as Russia. Daniel Yergin, PhD, vice chairman of IHS markit, said India and China are two global markets that rely heavily on the oil and gas coming out of the United States.

“The fact that they’re now importing oil and gas from the United States is not only economically important, it’s politically important,” Yergin said.

Yergin said the goals of the Paris Agreement are not necessarily realistic because of the global reliance on petroleum-based products, such as plastic. The pandemic emphasized the need for plastic products in the form of personal protective equipment.

“I think that it’s really important that the energy dimension be understood and not just kind of assume that everything’s doable,” Yergin said.

The agreement will be readdressed later this year at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland scheduled to begin Nov. 1.

“People should know it’s all focused on what’s going to happen in Glasgow in the first days of November when they’re going to have the conference that’s the successor to Paris,” Yergin said. “And the drive there is going to be to speed up getting to those targets.”

Keystone XL Pipeline permits revoked

The Keystone XL Pipeline was initially proposed in 2008, however construction was hindered by citizen protests. Many oppose the project because it will cut through land belonging to Native Americans and disrupt wildlife.

Former President Trump signed an executive order to advance the Keystone XL Pipeline, reversing a veto from Former President Obama. Among his first day executive orders, President Biden canceled the permit allowing the pipeline to be built, effectively dismantling the project for the time being.

“Our Nation has an abiding commitment to empower our workers and communities; promote and protect our public health and the environment; and conserve our national treasures and monuments, places that secure our national memory,” the executive order reads.

Texas leadership voiced their disapproval for this executive order when they joined five other states in suing the president, and they reiterated this point at Texas Energy Day. The lawsuit said Biden is encroaching on state’s rights.

However, Luke Metzger of Environment Texas said Republican leadership in the Texas legislature is working to control cities’ rights to choose between renewable energy and fossil fuels.

“The legislature’s working to make us more dependent on gas, which is bad both for right off the reliability, as well as for our climate,” Metzger said. “Now, House Bill 17 would attack local control and the rights of cities to reduce pollution from gas in our buildings.”

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, who represents Beaumont where the pipeline was supposed to end, was among the vocal critics of Biden’s order.

“The reason I didn’t like the idea…it sends a message on day one, you’re going to cancel this pipeline,” Phelan said. “And it could have a chilling effect when you kind of show your cards out early that this is how we’re going to decide we’re going to treat the oil and gas industry because just a permit is millions and millions of dollars and years in the making.”