The blackouts caused by the winter storm in February turned energy – where it comes from and how it’s delivered – into a front-burner issue for Texans. Many in the state also wonder, and even worry, about what a federal move toward renewable sources of power could mean for a state where oil and gas have long played such a large role.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm came to Houston Friday to meet with industry leaders. She spoke with the Texas Standard about how the administration’s green energy focus would impact the state.
On moving away from reliance on fossil fuels:
“For those who are, for example, working in natural gas, we want to help those companies and those individuals be able to ensure that we have the ability to, what is known as to manage or sequester the carbon emissions that do result from natural gas. The bottom line is we want clean energy and the source doesn’t matter so much as the fact that it is not producing poisoning greenhouse gas emissions.”
On renewable energy in Texas:
“You have been, you know, obviously, the oil and gas capital, but you are also No. 1 in solar. … We got to get your competitive juices flowing because California is beating you in solar and you have amazing resources, and you’ve got almost a quarter-of-a-million people who are right now working in the clean energy sector in Texas.”
On whether clean energy jobs can replace oil and gas jobs in Texas:
“Let me just be clear: It’s not that we want to do an entire replacement; it’s that we want to make sure that the oil and gas sector is carbon-free. … For example, Shell announced that it was going to go net carbon zero by 2050, which is what the president’s goal is for our overall economy. So these oil and gas companies, they see where the world is going. They want to export oil and gas, but they want to export and they want to have customers. But 196 countries have signed on to this Paris agreement, which gets us to this global commitment to net-zero carbon emissions. So we want to help those companies and individuals transition. But let me just say, in terms of people feeling like they ought to have good-paying jobs and where the future is, I mean, jobs as wind technicians pay $56,000 on average per year. If you are working on an oil derrick, it’s about $47,000.”
On the steps the Legislature has taken to address failures leading to the winter storm blackouts:
“I’m glad to see that the Legislature is taking this on. … Obviously, this happened about a decade ago as well. And the state was warned then about the importance of weatherizing – winterizing the system so that you can prevent this from happening into the future. So I’m so glad to see that being addressed. Everybody, all American families should be able to count on reliable electrical service to work when they need it. So the bottom line is the what the state is doing – I’m hoping that they are able to pass something that insists upon winterization. I hope that they’re able to figure out a way where you don’t see everyday citizens bearing the brunt of that. But obviously that’s up to the Legislature. I’m just glad they’re addressing it … because Texas is a system, as everybody knows, is independent from the rest of the country other than a part of El Paso. The country wants to be able to help. And if there is a way to at least have some connection, and that way Texas would be able to export wind and solar to other parts of the country as well as receive help.”