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article imageTexas oil companies want feds to pay for climate protection

By Karen Graham     Aug 24, 2018 in Politics
Houston - The burning of fossil fuels is the driving force behind climate change, and now the companies responsible want the federal government to help pay to protect them from the consequences to the tune of about $12 billion.
In Harris County, Texas, voters are going to the polls on Saturday, one year to the day after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Gulf Coast of Texas. Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm, creating a disaster of epic proportions in southeast Texas.
For the voters in Harris County, to cash in on matching federal funds, they have to decide on a $2.5 billion bond referendum for critical flood control projects.
For Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the vote is one of the most important decisions residents there will make. "We can’t afford to wait any longer. We cannot afford to get this one wrong," he said during a press conference earlier this month.
Hurricane Harvey  which flooded these homes near Lake Houston  Texas  in August 2017  cost $125 mill...
Hurricane Harvey, which flooded these homes near Lake Houston, Texas, in August 2017, cost $125 million and was the second-most expensive hurricane in US history
With Harris County residents, passing the referendum will mean an increase of 1.4 percent in property taxes, in the broadest sense, a small amount to pay to protect your home and livelihood. And Harris County is not the only municipality asking voters to back bond sales to cope with climate change.
Oil companies are now worried about climate change
In an interesting article in published in March this year, Time said that for the first time, there is evidence that major oil companies are openly grappling with the impacts of climate change and emerging renewable energy resources that look to leave them with a less-than-certain future.
Two major oil giants, BP and Exxon Mobil have both projected oil demand to peak in the next few decades, primarily due to renewables and the electric vehicle. Marie-Helene Ben Samoun, a Houston-based partner at the Boston Consulting Group said, “They are not only acknowledging global warming, but they are also acknowledging the energy transition and the impact on their own portfolio.”
A sunken boat lies submerged in front of an oil rig after Hurricane Harvey hit Port Aransas  Texas
A sunken boat lies submerged in front of an oil rig after Hurricane Harvey hit Port Aransas, Texas
And now, the state of Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for a rather ambitious project that would require building a nearly 60-mile "spine" of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast, supposedly to protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure.
The project would run from a stretch of the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the area south of Houston that houses 30 percent of U.S. oil refining capacity. But the state has another priority - and that is protecting the crown jewels of the petroleum industry.
Texas is seeking the $12 billion, all from public funds, meaning taxpayers. And while everyone is still questioning how far along Texas has come in being prepared for additional flooding, in July, the Army Corps of Engineers fast-tracked $3.9 billion for smaller projects that would protect oil facilities in Port Arthur and Freeport, also paid out of public funds.
Former ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson shakes hands with US Senator Ted Cruz (R) of Texas during ...
Former ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson shakes hands with US Senator Ted Cruz (R) of Texas during his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017
Texas Republican politicians like Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, who signed a letter urging President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris agreement and are generally hostile to public spending, support federal funding for the project.
"Our overall economy, not only in Texas but in the entire country, is so much at risk from a high storm surge," said Matt Sebesta, a Republican who as Brazoria County judge oversees a swath of Gulf Coast. And Sebesta is correct on his assessment and coastal communities around the country know this and are already getting things done at the local level.
But as the Associated Press points out, the idea of getting taxpayers to foot the bill for a levee and dikes around the Gulf Coast of Texas to protect petrochemical plants and oil refineries from the ravages of climate change is in a word - ludicrous - Especially in a state where top politicians still dispute climate change's validity. It just doesn't sit well with some people.
Galveston  Texas Skyline
Skyline of Galveston, Texas, looking south towards the Gulf of Mexico.
"The oil and gas industry is getting a free ride," said Brandt Mannchen, a member of the Sierra Club's executive committee in Houston. "You don't hear the industry making a peep about paying for any of this and why should they? There's all this push like, 'Please Senator Cornyn, Please Senator Cruz, we need money for this and that.'"
And this raises a very good question - Why can't all the petroleum and petrochemical companies with assets in Texas divide up the cost among themselves and shell out the money to get this project done. Not only would they be protecting their assets, but they would be protecting families that depend on them for jobs.
Texas "should be funding things like this itself," said Chris Edwards, an economist at the libertarian Cato Institute. "Texans are proud of their conservatism, but, unfortunately, when decisions get made in Washington, that frugality goes out the door."
But Texas has a comeback for dissenters: "Protecting the oil facilities is a matter of national security." So, there you go.
More about Climate change, petroleum companies, Texas, tezas gulf coast, Federal Government
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