Texas embraces everything about energy — especially what’s new.
Texans struck oil at Spindletop in 1901, and it would have been easy to sit back and relax after that.
But that’s not our style. Instead, we stocked our universities with researchers working to get more energy out of Texas’ abundant resources. We pioneered the fracking revolution that created an unprecedented oil and gas boom. And we invested early in transmission lines, harvesting West Texas wind and solar power to become one of the nation’s leading renewable energy generators. Now, another opportunity presents itself. Market interests and public policy are pushing for more, cleaner energy. The choice between “business as usual” or heeding this call carries tremendous implications for our economic future.
Some call this a transition. However, based on our years working with the state’s energy and business leaders in our respective careers and at Texas 2036, we believe that term is out of step with where we are headed.
Instead, we believe Texans will recognize this as an energy expansion.
Experience tells us that any path to energy growth and sustainability requires embracing new strategies that help traditional fuels burn cleanly and efficiently while also deploying emerging technologies onto the grid.
Fortunately, Texas is primed to lead an energy expansion. But, more than that, failing to embrace this expansion invites ruin. Today, energy planning presents nothing less than a choice between growth and prosperity or enduring decline — a continued Texas miracle or Rust Belt-level stagnation.
Well-designed energy expansion offers significant growth opportunities for existing industries, especially within the oil and gas sector — and it opens doors for new and emerging technologies, businesses and entrepreneurs. Coupled with ongoing leadership in renewable energy and energy storage, innovations like carbon capture, hydrogen-fueled energy and geothermal power generation offer more jobs, more investment and more economic growth.
These innovations could meet the world’s growing market and energy demands even as they create a healthier planet. But these fledgling technologies need incentives in the form of leadership and investment to grow.
Buried within the 1,039 pages of the recently passed federal bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are critical opportunities to catalyze Texas’ energy expansion — provided we embrace the moment and actively apply for available funding. They include $10 billion for carbon-capture technology grants, large-scale carbon sequestration and transportation and geologic storage permitting. The legislation also establishes a grant program for regional direct air carbon capture hubs — perfect opportunities for Houston and Corpus Christi.
The bill allocates $8 billion to create four regional clean hydrogen hubs that showcase and jump-start the use of hydrogen as a fuel source, and it establishes a grant program for clean hydrogen manufacturing and research. By pioneering the development of hydrogen-based energy, Texas can once again transform the world’s energy use in ways that capitalize on our rich natural resources.
The new infrastructure act also creates a clean energy demonstration program using solar or geothermal energy on current or former mine land, which could unlock profound economic potential in sites that stretch from the Rio Grande Valley to northeast Texas.
And the bill offers $11 billion in grants to enhance electric grid reliability and resiliency against extreme weather events and cyberattacks.
These are tremendous opportunities for Texas to lead the energy expansion. If Texas fails to seize the energy future, other states will. State and local leaders must pursue these opportunities to ensure Texas’ energy industry does not get left behind.
To protect our energy dominance, Texas 2036 calls on state, industry, academic and environmental leaders to join us in helping develop a strategic blueprint that defines a path forward through public policy and private-sector involvement. Organizing state agencies and regional partners for success will be critical to our pursuit of these new avenues for energy expansion. Developing a blueprint allows us to take stock of Texas’ strengths, especially within the oil and gas industry, and identify recommendations for the Legislature and industry to leverage those assets toward maximizing this opportunity.
The energy expansion is coming, with or without Texas. The world needs our expertise, experience and leadership. Our future depends on it.
Tom Luce is founder and chair of Texas 2036. He served as assistant secretary of education under President George W. Bush. Jeremy Mazur is senior policy adviser at Texas 2036 and is former director of government affairs for the Railroad Commission of Texas. Rob Orr is senior policy advisor at Texas 2036 who previously worked at the Energy Reliability Council of Texas. This piece first appeared in The Houston Chronicle.