To fix global warming, the world needs Houston [Opinion] – Houston Chronicle
Houston has always been a place of big ideas. Perhaps more important, it is a place where those big ideas become realities. We need that now.
In Washington, policymakers and lawmakers are talking about big ideas—ideas that address the tremendous opportunities and challenges we face across the country and around the world. And there is no conversation more important than the one about our energy future.
Here in Houston, we know about energy, and we know we are experiencing an energy renaissance, one that has reduced costs and increased investment here and around the world. We also know that climate change represents a real and growing threat, and that we are already experiencing its effects: Harvey. The Tax Day Flood. The Memorial Day Flood.
At the intersection of these issues is a place where we need big ideas. And there is no better place to find them than Houston.
When it comes to energy innovation, this is its home. Texas is the leader in developing wind energy in the U.S. We have installed three times as much wind power as the next leading state. Research and development of new energy technologies for carbon capture are happening here, and creative natural infrastructure ideas like carbon sequestration through a market-based system are Texas proposals.
Most important, in the last decade, the advances in technology that have transformed our energy economy have substantially reduced U.S. carbon emissions. Replacing coal-fired plants with natural gas plants has contributed more to the reduction of domestic carbon emissions than any other effort. And reducing emissions is key to addressing climate change.
One big idea is reflected in the Paris Climate Agreement. The Agreement was an important, collaborative step forward, utilizing research and input from 186 countries, 2,250 cities, and 2,025 companies that agreed to keep the global average temperature below two degrees Celsius to combat climate change. It sets both realistic and effective goals for its signatories, and garnered bipartisan support in Washington. Central to the process, and the goal, is the recognition that no country can address climate change alone. We need everyone to be part of the solution. And that’s an important reason why it has garnered support—from multinational energy companies, like ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Shell, to small businesses and cities. It is a big idea. But it will only work if we all participate.
Another idea that has gotten a lot of attention is the Green New Deal proposed by some of my colleagues in Congress, H. Res. 109. It is good that, for the first time in a long time, Congress is talking about what rather than whether to do something about climate change. That said, House Resolution 109 relies too much on top-down, government solutions that will deepen partisan divisions, harm our economy, and squander our unique opportunity to get this right.
Among its central proposals is one to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Most experts tell us this is impossible. Former Obama administration Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has cautioned that setting unrealistic targets has the potential to deter key actors from continuing to participate in emissions reductions, including labor groups and energy companies. Those are exactly the people we need working together to solve this problem.
Moreover, this Green New Deal transfers whole sectors of our economy, not just energy, to government control. That will not only disrupt the economy, but stifle the kind of entrepreneurial innovation and energy we need to address climate change. Look no further than its call for ending the use of natural gas. Natural gas has been the biggest driver in lowering carbon emissions domestically, leading us to a 30-year-low in emissions in 2016. Eliminating this source of energy would erase a critical part of our energy supply, and a critical tool we need.
As lawmakers in Washington generate big ideas to address the climate crisis, we need the input of a diverse and broad coalition of stakeholders who have the energy expertise we need to chart our path forward. Our plan and our process must be focused on working together, not casting blame or delaying action.
That’s why I plan to vote this week in favor of H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act. It recommits the United States to the Paris Agreement, requiring the Executive Branch to develop a plan to meet its goals. We have a global crisis. It requires a global solution. And where better to develop that solution than in Houston, where we turn big ideas into reality?
Fletcher is the U.S. congressperson for District 7, on the west side of Houston.