Texas oilman launching coalition to get the state carbon neutral by 2050

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A new coalition aimed to get Texas carbon neutral by 2050 is being spearheaded by, of all sources, a Texas oilman.

Corbin Robertson, Jr. has a decades-long career in the energy sector— considered by some as a coal magnate. His family’s investments in the fossil fuels go back three generations.

“I’ve been invested in the energy since I was born,” Robertson said in a Wednesday interview.

Now, he’s hoping the industry leads in a new way.

“The fossil fuel industry has got the capacity to go green,” he said.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 02: Corbin J. Robertson Jr. at arts residency program Ucross founder’s dinner on November 02, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images)

The high-dollar Republican donor is leading a coalition launching Thursday with a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. The Carbon Neutral Coalition is made up of members in the oil and gas industry as well as government leaders, environmentalists and scientists.

Carbon neutrality means carbon dioxide emissions in the state would be equal to the amount of carbon savings.

“We’re cleaning up the air,” Robertson said. “If you think that there’s a problem with carbon in the air, let’s resolve it.”

Robertson wrote a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott calling on state lawmakers to strengthen the framework for regulating and storing captured carbon in light of federal incentives already in place to encourage the practice.

“We’re a can-do state, we ought to lead,” Robertson said. “Our industry ought to lead, you know, just like we did, by having natural gas replace coal.”

The coalition’s creation drew kudos from Environment Texas.

“It’s a big day for somebody to see the writing on the wall, you know, like a big Texas oilman to call for cutting emissions,” Environment Texas executive director Luke Metzger said in an interview.

“We are the national leader in global warming pollution, well, gas is very dirty, and it’s causing serious problems for our climate,” he said.

Metzger suggested there are other, cleaner, ways to reach the carbon neutral goal.

“We’re going to need a variety of strategies to get to carbon neutrality,” Metzger explained.

Texas Oil and Gas Association President Todd Staples said in a statement the association looked forward to working with the coalition, explaining the industry is investing in how to address carbon dioxide.

“The Texas oil and natural gas industry is leading the way toward a lower emissions future by investing heavily in the development of pioneering technologies such as capturing, storing and reusing carbon dioxide,” Staples stated. “Advancements such as these are making a big impact in addressing climate concerns head on.”

“TXOGA looks forward to continuing to work on this issue through our Carbon Management Workgroup and other industry-led efforts like the Carbon Neutral Coalition to further evaluate policies that enable carbon reduction efforts,” Staples said. “Oil and natural gas are indispensable to our future and to improving lives here and around the globe.”

Robertson acknowledged the potential for expensive up-front costs, but said it would pay dividends.

“There is enough economics to justify somebody taking the CO2 out of the smokestack and doing something with it,” Robertson explained.

“We got smokestacks that are spewing out carbon,” he said. “Let’s go clean them up.”

A request for a statement from Gov. Abbott’s office was not returned Wednesday. Abbott has used the state’s energy advancements in solar and wind power to attract companies seeking carbon neutrality to Texas.

Abbott said in December renewable energy resources in the state would help companies achieve those goals at lower costs than what they’d pay in some other states.

Eric Lefenfeld and John Thomas contributed to this report.

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