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Op-ed: Transition to clean energy needs to be done responsibly

President Biden followed through on his promise of delivering a one-two regulatory punch to the oil and gas industry. His administration will stop construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and implement a 60-day freeze on new leases on federal lands to keep its pledge to fight climate change. Although the news did not surprise many, the announcements are triggering ripple effects throughout the energy industry, especially in Texas.

Starting with the never-ending odyssey of the Keystone pipeline, it appears millions of barrels of crude won’t make the journey from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. This will compel companies across the state and Houston to modify their energy outlook and pivot to fallback plans. The decision will erase the expected benefits the pipeline would have delivered to Houston from jobs to cheaper energy. For some, the news couldn’t come at a worse time coinciding with a new 2020 report revealing Houston suffered its single worst year in job losses. Nearly every sector was hit including oil and gas, which lost 14,000 jobs.

Industry executives and lawmakers have reacted to the Keystone announcement critically blasting the policy change as “misguided,” a “significant step backward,” and “kicking Texas energy workers while they’re down.”

Keystone proponents argue the pipeline would be cheaper to move oil, keep energy prices lower, and provide a safer and a more reliable delivery system compared to rail. Supporters of the pipeline also point out that transporting oil through the pipeline would emit less emissions per barrel and at a lower spill rate than rail.

The second, and possibly more alarming action taken by the Biden administration, is halting new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. These leases account for more than a fifth of oil production in the U.S.

Many of the executives we spoke with believe this temporary measure will transition into a permanent ban. This will have major consequences on those companies with investments on these federal lands now with hundreds of permits in limbo, some here in Houston. Many impacted states like Texas rely on federal land drilling for jobs and as a key tax revenue source to fund schools and other local programs.

But even with these apparent steps back, opportunity could present itself to the city of Houston and our state. Our mayor has declared he wants Houston to be the transition energy capital of the world and has already...

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