Gov. Greg Abbott touts renewable energy in speech to U.S. business leaders

Source: By Jeremy Wallace, Houston Chroncile • Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Texas Governor Greg Abbott talks about the continued importance of oil and gas for the state 02/01/2022 outside 3S Services off Elkin Road in Midland. Tim Fischer/Reporter-Telegram
Texas Governor Greg Abbott talks about the continued importance of oil and gas for the state 02/01/2022 outside 3S Services off Elkin Road in Midland. Tim Fischer/Reporter-Telegram 

As oil production is booming in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday was putting a big focus on the state’s growing renewable energy sector during a speech in Austin.

“You can have fossil fuels while at the very same time be leaders in renewable energy,” Abbott told a group with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, touting the state’s growing wind and solar energy production. “We’ve got to be very clear that all forms of energy are essential.”

Abbott called Texas an international leader in wind power and predicted it will be the No. 1 state for solar energy by the end of the year.

It was a very different tone from a year ago when Abbott appeared to blame renewable energy sources — specifically wind turbines — for failing during the 2021 winter storm that left millions of Texans without power and resulted in more than 200 cold-related deaths.

“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Abbott said in an interview on Fox News Channel with host Sean Hannity last February. “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.”

While some wind farms were down, others remained in operation. The state’s bigger problem during the 2021 winter storm was fossil fuel disruptions and electricity providers that had not winterized their facilities as detailed by a Houston Chronicle investigation.

It wasn’t just Abbott. Republicans in the Texas Legislature have loudly criticized federal policies in the aftermath of the storm for giving tax incentives to solar and wind production that they say have “tilted” the energy market too much to benefit renewables.

But Abbott on Monday sounded more like an advocate for the state’s growing renewable energy sector.

“Oil and gas are going to continue to remain necessary for national security, for daily usage, but at the same time you can promote renewables, which Texas is both a national and international leader in,” he told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of 100.

Abbott also touted the state’s booming oil industry, which will help cut prices at the pump. And he pushed back against those who have “tarnished” fossil fuels.

Abbott’s focus on renewable energy comes as his Democratic opponent for re-election, Beto O’Rourke, has been talking about the same issue. Just moments before Abbott spoke in Austin, O’Rourke was on social media talking about the need for diversifying the energy sector.

“Texas can leverage our oil and gas expertise to lead on new energy sources like geothermal power, offshore wind and hydrogen,” he said. “We can create jobs and make America more energy independent.”

Climate scientists have said the world must shift quickly away from fossil fuels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But 60 percent of U.S. electricity still comes from carbon-based fuels. Some estimates show the nation would have to double or triple wind and solar capacity over the next few years to meet aggressive fossil fuel reduction plans touted by the Biden administration.