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Oil Oligarchs' Grip on Texas: How Their Influence Blocked Energy Reform
Understanding the impact of campaign funding on energy policy and environmental outcomes.
During the 88th Texas Legislature, several bills were introduced that would have lowered energy costs, bolstered our electric grid, and made Texas more energy efficient. As we would expect, under a Republican majority, the good bills were blocked, and the awful bills were pushed through.
It’s July, and it’s hot as hell in Texas. Much of the excessive heat is due to climate change, and many people are seeing skyrocketing electric bills as a result. It’s time to discuss why these issues weren’t fixed in the last legislative session.
This was a bill introduced by Senator Sarah Eckhardt (D). SB 258 would not only have reduced the growing demand on the electrical grid but would also have provided for the weatherization of homes and businesses.
First, the bill went through and out of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. It’s important to note that while the Senate passed it with nine votes, two Senators voted against it. Those nay votes were Brandon Creighton and Mayes Middleton.
After the bill passed the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce, it went to the Senate Committee on State Affairs, where it was killed by the chairman, Bryan Hughes.
SB 258 would have reduced your electric bill and helped make our electric grid more reliable. Yet, two Senators voted against it, and a third ultimately killed it. Why?
Mayes Middleton owns an oil and gas company. It’s his family business and why he’s rich. Voting for lower energy costs and a more reliable grid would have been voting against his own best interests.
SB 2453 would have allowed the state to adopt strong energy efficiency standards for new buildings. The bill had widespread support from the Sierra Club, the Texas Chemical Council, the South Central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource, Environment Texas, the US Green Building Council, and the Texas Association of Builders.
A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that this particular bill would save Texas consumers $4.3 billion over the next thirty years and prevent 45 million tons of pollution.
Would you believe this bill passed both the House and the Senate? It was sent to the Governor’s desk, where he maliciously vetoed it.
Greg Abbott receives millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry every election cycle. Just like the Republicans in the legislature, he is incentivized to keep energy prices high and pollution abundant.
Zero climate and oil and gas regulations passed in the 88th Legislative Session.
According to the Sierra Club, all of the pollution reduction bills went. The Sierra Club spent countless hours working with offices to file dozens of bills on climate planning, emissions reductions, and oil and gas regulations. Whether to plug more wells, deal with climate-destroying methane emissions, or raise fines and fees on the oil and gas industry. Not only did they not advance, but the chairs of the relevant committees - Chair Craig Goldman (R) and Chair Brian Birdwell (R) - never even allowed those bills to get hearings.
Republicans benefit financially from keeping our electric bills high and blocking mitigation of the climate crisis.
The result is a gridlocked legislature prioritizing the interests of oil oligarchs and the fossil fuel industry over the well-being of Texas residents. The need for transparent and accountable governance becomes even more pressing with a climate crisis and escalating electric bills affecting countless citizens. Until the influence of moneyed interests is addressed, and meaningful climate and energy reforms are enacted, Texans will continue to bear the brunt of the status quo.
What does that mean for us?
Aside from our electric bills continuing to rise, the extreme heat we’ve witnessed this summer will only worsen.
Texas is only getting hotter. Our electric grid is aging and deteriorating. Power outages will become more frequent and last longer.
The 88th Texas Legislature's failure to pass essential bills aimed at lowering energy costs, improving the electric grid, and promoting energy efficiency highlights the gridlock caused by the influence of oil oligarchs and the fossil fuel industry.
Despite the urgent need to address climate change and its detrimental effects on Texas, the legislature prioritized financial gains over the well-being of its residents. The impact of this legislative inaction is already evident, with rising electric bills and intensifying heat waves. As our electric grid ages and power outages become more frequent, the urgent need for transparent and accountable governance becomes undeniable.
To bring about meaningful change, it is crucial for voters to consider the interests of their representatives and take action by supporting candidates who prioritize the health and safety of Texans and the planet over the financial gain from oil money. By holding those in power accountable and advocating for meaningful climate and energy reforms, Texans can work towards a sustainable and secure future for their state and the planet.