Former Texas Comptroller Combs joins private-sector effort to ‘turn fossil fuels green’

By John C. Moritz


AUSTIN — Former state Comptroller Susan Combs, who served in the U.S. Interior Department during the Trump administration, is joining a private-sector startup seeking to make Texas carbon neutral by 2050.


The Carbon Neutral Coalition, founded by longtime energy-industry executive Corbin Robertson Jr. of Houston, wants to find ways to capture and store carbon-dioxide emissions from traditional fossil fuels. That would enable the oil, gas and coal industries to continue to thrive as renewable energy sources extend their reach in Texas and globally.


“The industry understands that consumers and investors do want some cleaner energy, and I think they are truly poised to deliver,” said Combs, who will chair the coalition’s advisory board.


“The proposed approach is to turn fossil fuels green. And I think it can absolutely be done and I think Texas is the ideal place for it.”


The carbon-neutral group was founded in April after President Joe Biden announced plans for the nation to cut greenhouse gas levels in half from by 2030. The announcement came at the president’s Leaders Summit on Climate.


“Creating jobs and tackling climate change go hand in hand – empowering the U.S. to build more resilient infrastructure, expand access to clean air and drinking water, spur American technological innovations, and create good-paying, union jobs along the way,” the White House said in a statement about Biden’s plan.


Increased reliance on renewable energy sources are key to the president’s initiative. He also called for increased efforts to capture carbon emitted from traditional fossil fuels.


Combs, a rancher who entered politics in 1993 when she was elected to the Texas House as a Republican, said in an interview that details on how carbon from fossil fuels would be captured and stored are still being developed. But options include underground storage, injections into oil and gas wells and increasing ways to distribute carbon-dioxide to plant life, including on farms, ranches an timber forests.


Plants take in carbon-dioxide and give off oxygen as a waste product.


The coalition will work with existing oil and gas and energy organizations to advocate that the state establish the regulatory framework to create this infrastructure, Combs said.


“A lot of the companies are already well onto the way of figuring out how can they create market opportunities – a private market with governmental help,” said Combs, who was the Interior Department’s chief financial office during the Trump presidency. As comptroller from 2007 until 2015, she was the state’s top financial officer.


Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said he is heartened that business leaders are taking an active role in the effort to reduce carbon’s footprint.


“If we are to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, we must reach carbon neutrality by 2050, as the coalition is working for, even if they don’t say the words global warming,” Metzger said. “It’s significant that a major Texas oilman is making this call to action. We’re seeing more and more major companies, and even some of our politicians, acknowledge that the world is demanding climate action.”


Robertson, a grandson of the late Texas oil pioneer Hugh Roy Cullen, is a managing partner of Quintana Capital Group, an energy-focused private equity firm in Houston he co-founded. He also heads Natural Resource Partners and is chairman of Quintana Energy Services.


When he announced the formation of the carbon group, Robertson said “the entire energy industry must find a way to adapt and achieve carbon neutrality.”


John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.



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