Stephanie Grace: Like it or not, Louisiana, the energy transition is here | Columnist Stéphanie Grace


Each legislative session seems to serve a few lines that live in infamy. Last spring, one of them came from Pro State Senate President Tem Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, who punctuated her skepticism about the arrival of large-scale solar farms by stating “I thought we were an oil and gas state the whole time I was here. Solar is out there, and if we go solar over oil and gas, nobody told me.

Compare that with a line that should be played just as much, that of Governor John Bel Edwards regarding the announcement of the state’s first carbon capture project, a $ 4.5 billion clean energy facility slated for the Ascension Parish: “I think the risk frankly does not make projects of this type economically, because an energy transition is underway and we are powerless to stop it.”

Maybe no one has explicitly told Mizell that the ground is already moving, but Edwards is far from the only one who understands that Louisiana has two choices, trying to hold back the tide (here we know how it goes. generally) or position themselves. to catch the wave.

A little quietly, at least in the face of vocal objections from some Republicans at the state and congressional level, the revolution is coming to the state. Just consider a few recent headlines.

A San Francisco company offered the parish of St. Helena a solar panel farm that could supply power to the distribution grid, and parish officials said they were open to the idea. There is also a proposal to build a huge solar farm, one million panels strong, in the parish of Calcasieu.

And without an interested buyer for its closed crude oil refinery at Convent – a sign of the times in itself – Royal Dutch Shell plans to reuse the facility to produce low-carbon fuels.

At the state level, Edwards signed an executive order committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, launched a task force on climate initiatives and joined a bipartisan coalition of governors working on state-led climate solutions. This brings his administration in line with President Joe Biden’s stated goals.

There is also a renewed interest in the development of wind power in the Gulf of Mexico, which could be propelled by the state’s existing expertise in the development and maintenance of offshore oil and gas facilities.

All of these ideas are not without controversy, even among those who understand market realities and the environmental risk of sticking to the status quo.

Rising seas, stronger hurricanes: climate report paints grim picture for southern Louisiana

Carbon capture, for example, is seen as promising by officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, who want to stay in the fossil fuel business while reducing carbon emissions. Among the proponents of this approach is Republican US Senator Bill Cassidy, who introduced a bill to provide loans and federal assistance to encourage the development of these projects. Critics, however, are concerned about the environmental impact of storing liquefied carbon in deep caverns.

One clue to the impending discussion comes from activist group Together Louisiana, which issued a press release last week announcing that “an important debate is about to intensify on ‘carbon capture’, and its result will affect Louisiana more than any other place. ” The group encouraged its members to educate themselves by watching an expert panel that the governor’s climate task force is organizing on Tuesday.

All of these things sometimes feel like taking place in a parallel universe to where some of our politicians still reside, a place where the fight against climate change is considered extreme, supporting renewable projects is like harassing the people who work. in oil and gas, and anything that could be included in the Green New Deal is automatically suspect.

In the world we all live in, as Edwards so bluntly put it, the transition is here and Louisiana is powerless to stop it. For anyone who cares about the state’s economy and its survival in a time of rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions linked to climate change, the real question comes down to this: why the hell would -they ?


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