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Opinion: A carbon neutral Texas can sustain environment and fossil fuels

By Corbin Robertson Jr. and Susan Combs

The United States is now the energy capital of the world with the Lone Star State leading the way. In Texas, traditional energy workers represent approximately 5 percent of the state’s employment, not to mention the indirect jobs and economic output generated by the industry. However, Texas must face the reality that consumers and investors are demanding that energy providers reduce carbon emissions. Recent demands by Exxon shareholders to cut emissions, as well as the company’s $100 billion plan to reduce carbon, highlight this.

While the goal of protecting our environment is a noble one and must be pursued, destroying the lifeblood of the Texas economy and undermining national security in the process is dangerous.

A clean environment and a productive fossil fuels industry is not an “either or” choice.

The way forward is greater investment in Texas’ robust hydrogen-based economy which holds great promise for the future of Texas and America. Hydrogen power can be used in everyday life, from powering cars to heating our homes and will be key to maintaining people’s standard of living as consumers move to a carbon neutral economy.

Affordable natural gas supply has reduced the carbon emissions per capita in the United States more than any country that signed the Paris Climate Accord. Yet, we must be honest and recognize that fossil fuels provide 80 percent of the world’s energy needs but emit CO2. Consumers will need fossil fuels for electricity, fuels and products. Their production and use can become carbon neutral through Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (“CCUS”).

The energy and power industries have the technical and financial capacity combined with governments and the investment community to lead the transition to the hydrogen and decarbonized economy. They have the expertise to build the capture, processing, pipelines, infrastructure, geologic storage and services to achieve the carbon neutral objective.

Therefore, Texas must put in place the economic structure to ensure energy companies of all kinds are still able to produce, be profitable, keep or expand jobs while tracking toward carbon neutrality.

That is why we have launched the Carbon Neutral Coalition. The goal of this organization is to put Texas on a path to becoming carbon neutral by the year 2050. The coalition is working to establish the infrastructure that will incentivize the energy industry to cut their carbon emissions by utilizing Carbon Capture, Use and Underground Storage. It will focus on bringing government and the private sector together to reduce carbon, while creating jobs and new investment opportunities for Texans.

But it must be done in a way that preserves our vital fossil fuel industry.

Enabling companies to capture and use the carbon created from fossil fuels, energy jobs will be preserved, and our environment protected.

To do this, Texas should support an “all of the above” agenda that turns fossil fuels green by capturing the CO2 from the smokestacks and the methane from production, creating verifiable offset trades on these emissions. In the same way that technology helped significantly reduce SO2 and NOx, technology allows us to do the same with CO2.

Finally, carbon neutrality must address Scope 3 emissions, which are the everyday emissions consumers and companies emit. Think of the carbon emissions a service like Amazon has in its value chain from the packaging all the way to the delivery of packages to your door. While carbon emissions from smokestacks are easier to quantify and to capture, a majority of a company’s emissions may come from this value chain. So, we must include Scope 3 emissions in the journey to carbon neutrality to determine the carbon offsets companies and consumers should make.

Effective state legislation and regulation can help create a stable environment for low-cost carbon capture, underground storage and hydrogen investment. Infrastructure to build the hydrogen economy in Texas will create jobs, tax base and economic activity. This will allow the energy industry to lead on this increasingly important issue, without government mandates. Texas has led the world in energy production, and it can continue to lead in a new economy that is carbon neutral.

Robertson is the CEO of Quintana Resources and Founder of the Carbon Neutral Coalition (CNC). Combs is the former Comptroller of Texas and is the Advisory Board Chairperson of the CNC.

Source: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/0604-Oped-Carbon-Neutral-Coalition-16223045.php