The climate crisis is here, but all industries can help reverse it
After reading Kaitlin Schmidtke’s op-ed on energy and climate change in the May 15 Caller-Times, I feel compelled to answer and answer her questions. Although she is a Washington D.C. lobbyist, I write this as a citizen concerned about the direction we are headed and the inaction of industry and elected officials to realistically address the greatest threat. that humans have faced in modern times.
I grew up around the oil field. My father started as an engineer in 1947 and later ran the drill manufacturing division of a global company. Early in my career, I worked as a draftsman in companies that manufactured production equipment, drill pipe fittings, and solids control equipment. I worked hard on the floor of a drilling rig and worked as a service worker from Riviera, Texas to Mobile, Alabama. At the time, no one was talking about rising global temperatures or the ripple effects they might cause.
Forty years later, we are facing global warming, or what is more accurately called a climate crisis. In recent years, the United States has experienced wildfires, floods, sea level rise, drought, the Great Texas Freeze of 2021, and hurricanes like Harvey that destroyed Rockport and then dumped 52 inches of rain over parts of Houston.
In other parts of the world, huge chunks of ice are melting in Antarctica and Greenland, glaciers are disappearing and climate refugees are leaving their homes to find another place where they can survive. It is not normal. And that’s exactly what IPCC scientists predicted due to climate change, except it’s happening much faster than they first anticipated.
Coming to Ms. Schmidtke’s questions:
“Why do elected officials echo some anti-energy activists in favor of eliminating traditional fuels?
First, “anti-energy activists” is an inaccurate term intended to inflame people. No one is saying we have to stop using energy. Instead, we need to be smarter about how we use energy and start switching to forms that don’t release as much carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Wind and solar energy are good examples with huge potential in Texas, and researchers are finding other ways to make and store energy.
“Why don’t they ever cite America’s global success in reducing emissions while producing energy at record highs?”
It is true that emissions have been reduced in some sectors of activity, but overall, greenhouse gas emissions have tended to increase since the beginning of the industrial revolution. We saw a dip in 2020 due to the pandemic, but that was short-lived.
If the oil industry wants to reduce emissions significantly, it must stop methane leaks at well sites and at every stop along the pipelines that carry crude and natural gas to market. Infrared cameras like those used by TCEQ show methane escaping from tank vents, pressure relief valves and flares at many well sites in Texas. By investing in gas capture devices or performing better maintenance, industry could stop leaks into the air and sell the gas instead.
Basically, they try to have their cake and eat it too. They want to increase production and emissions while running advertisements on television or in magazines that promote green initiatives that only represent a very small percentage of their overall investments. It’s greenwashing.
“Similarly, why are they ignoring technological innovations like carbon capture and storage that will get us to net zero faster than anyone imagined?”
Pilot projects like the one at a power plant near Houston have shown that carbon capture and sequestration can be achieved, but it’s not a silver bullet. There are several issues, including cost, in expanding it to a level that could capture the same amount of carbon dioxide produced when burning fossil fuels. The same goes for blue hydrogen which is both water and carbon intensive.
“In 2022, why should we accept policy proposals that create more price volatility and energy that is less reliable, affordable and even more harmful to the environment?”
U.S. companies including Shell and ExxonMobil have joined an initiative to establish a national carbon cap-and-trade program because it would establish a stable price signal for energy and a clear path for planning major projects of investment. Additionally, when it comes to affordability and reliability, solar power now costs the same in Texas as electricity generated from natural gas, and our state’s February 2021 grid outage was caused by failures in power plants and natural gas gathering facilities, not by wind and solar power. those.
The energy sector is not the only area where changes are needed. We need major changes in transportation, agriculture, timber harvesting, architecture and more. We don’t have all the answers yet, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep doing everything as if everything is normal. We are beyond that and we only have 10 years to act. The more we kick the road, the more the damage caused by natural disasters and the solutions will cost.
We have much of the technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the worst impacts. The Drawdown Project (drawdown.org) was created by an international team of academics, scientists, policymakers and others to compile a list of the best methods for achieving net zero carbon. Seeing their explanations of the solutions gives reason to hope that we can prevail if we act now. If we are not doing it for ourselves or for the planet, we must do it for our children and grandchildren.
Neil McQueen is Co-Chair of the Texas Coastal Bend Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.