A report that recently came out in April proves net zero actually boosts the economy rather than costs too much. The analysis called “Don’t Mess with Texas: Getting the Lone Star State to Net-Zero by 2050” looks into Texas’ potential in the clean energy sector and finds out that decarbonizing the state would actually strengthen its industry.
The report was funded by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, the Energy Foundation, The Meadows Foundation and Catena Foundation. The authors are from University of Texas at Austin, Colorado-based Vibrant Clean Energy, and the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The report starts by exploring the changing consumer behavior and demands. It shows cases that the global markets are already turning down goods and services that rely on fossil fuels. The shifting consumer preferences could mean trouble for Texas, as it has built an economy larger than those of most countries on the strength of its oil and natural gas industries.
Texas is on the verge of embracing a whole new approach that is entirely transformational compared to its current energy production ways. Alternatively, if it decides not to participate in the energy transition, it risks losing its economic footing, according to the report.
How Texas Can Get To Net Zero?
It proposes four decarbonization scenarios that comprise different ideas for mixes of green technologies to help Texas achieve net-zero emissions. The researchers also crafted a fifth, “business as usual” scenario, to use for comparison purposes. It assumes that long-term plans and government policies already on the books hold true for the coming three decades in Texas.
The results are astonishing as they show all four decarbonization scenarios are better for the Texas economy compared to the business as usual approach. They caused the state’s annual gross domestic product to increase anywhere from 1.6% to 7.9%.
The four Texas net zero by 2050 approaches are as follows:
- focusing on replacing appliances and machines that run on fossil fuels with ones powered by electricity, buying all-electric cars. That scenario includes a significant portion of the Texas economy going all-electric by 2050 and the remaining emissions are offset with carbon capture technologies. The scenario also assumes that the electricity used to power cars, home appliances and buildings comes from net-zero carbon sources.
- The second scenario assumes the same timeline for electrification as the first. The difference is that the electric grid becomes fully zero-emission and carbon pollution is eliminated by 2035. The approach includes using nuclear energy and enhanced geothermal energy production.
- The third one partly electrifies Texas and also shifts a significant portion of its energy mix to green hydrogen. That includes deploying the hydrogen fuel at large-scale across the state. The approach helps with decarbonizing the petrochemical industry, which the researchers conclude is the most difficult part of the economy to get to net-zero emissions.
- The fourth approach assumes Texas continues doing what it is doing now – burning a lot of oil and gas, but invests heavily in facilities that capture carbon dioxide at smokestacks or remove it directly from the air and sequester it.
The approach using entirely carbon capture and storage technologies helps annual GDP grow 4.6%, and adds significantly more jobs than the business as usual scenario.
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The hydrogen scenario produced the highest annual GDP growth out of the four pathways – 7.9% with again slightly higher jobs growth. The electrification approaches both created an annual GDP 1.6% higher than business as usual scenario in 2050.
“It’s not like we had four other scenarios that we just threw away… We did four scenarios and they all look good,” said Michael Webber, professor of energy resources in the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and coauthor of the report, as the researchers were reportedly puzzled by the results.
Why Moving To Net Zero Is Imperative?
The analysis also highlights evidence that the Texas economy is already hurting from its heavy emissions footprint. In early 2021, the Port of Cork, in Ireland, declined to renew a contract with a Texas liquified natural gas exporter. The port cited aversion among its citizens to hydraulic fracturing.
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France also canceled a $7 billion contract with a Texas natural gas exporter in 2020 because of hydraulic fracturing. Meanwhile, Texas competitors such as China, the UK, and Scandinavian countries are developing low-carbon industrial centers and will come out with low-carbon products over the next couple of years, directly competing with heavy emissions ones.
Having in mind that half the world’s GDP is now generated in regions with net-zero commitments, it is projected to become more and more difficult for oil and gas products and services to make their way to the global markets.
The researchers hope policymakers and industry leaders would see the report less like a road map and more like a menu. It aims to offer a guideline for decarbonization pathways but also hopes the governments will blend elements of all four approaches.