When you think about climate action, perhaps Texas isn’t the first state that comes to mind.
After all, we don’t see Texas streets full of youth activists in the news like in New York City, and the dominant presence of the oil and gas industry often catches ire from coastal environmentalists.
It’s true that Texans may not be the loudest voices in the climate dialogue, but counting Texas out is a huge mistake. Texas is home to an incredible number of important stakeholders in the fight against climate change. Farmers and ranchers, who work the land for a living, are often the very first to feel the effects of environmental degradation. Traditional energy workers are often left behind by climate change rhetoric and badly need a seat at the table in any talks on “energy transition.”
Texas is also becoming the premier location for new businesses, which are increasingly prioritizing sustainability and reducing emissions. Consider that competitive electricity markets support wind energy, which has revitalized rural companies and reduced both energy costs and carbon emissions. The climate leadership Texas can offer is not audacious or loud, but steady and strong.
Environmental issues, like the effects of climate change, are especially important here in Texas. While Texas leads the nation in energy production, the extreme weather threatens energy infrastructure, as we saw so clearly in February. Despite some reports, wind was not the sole cause of February’s blackouts and, in fact, accounted for just a fraction of the outages. This is so critically important to note because February blackouts should not suggest that Texas is leaning too far into the green economy, but there is even more work to do to make Texas a sustainable powerhouse.
Instead of jeopardizing the future of renewables in the state of Texas with misinformation, we should be encouraging Texas to lead in yet another area—grid resilience—not just nationally, but globally, as it already does with wind power. Grid resilience to extreme weather should be a priority throughout the country and part of any infrastructure effort this year.
Texas, with its huge oil and gas industry, is used to being blamed for climate change, but it’s time to change that narrative. There is incredible potential for effective, common-sense climate action in Texas that will bolster the economy and protect our planet. Although the first carbon-capture coal plant in the state was unfortunately shuttered earlier this year, there is still ample opportunity to develop carbon capture projects, as well as clean nuclear power.
As members of the environmental movement, we understand the importance of building coalitions to get results. That means we should be hearing from all Texas stakeholders: farmers and ranchers, traditional energy workers, renewable energy champions, business leaders, and activists.
We often focus on our federal government when we’re advocating for climate change action, but we can’t lose sight of the importance of local advocacy. As a state that has borne the impact of climate change and remains the top oil and gas producer in the nation, Texas holds an important place in the climate conversation. And activists will be the reason the Texan voice is heard in the national climate dialogue. Any conversation about clean energy, our nation’s energy workforce or adapting to extreme weather should include Texans.
Trammell Crow is the founder of EarthX. Danielle Butcher is the executive vice president of the American Conservation Coalition. Both are in Dallas. They wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.