Op-Ed by Travis Boldt – Democratic Candidate for Texas House District 29
Why have we centered so much of our economy around the production and consumption of Fossil Fuels? Not only does the Oil and Gas industry have both direct and indirect toxic impacts on the environment, but volatility in the price of oil also leads to a chaotic pattern of feast and famine which has left Texans hanging out to dry many times before.
Boom and Bust
Ask anyone in the Oil and Gas Industry, and they will tell you that oil prices function on a Boom and Bust cycle. It’s one of the reasons these jobs compensate so well during Boom-times; it’s supposed to tide these people over for the next anticipated collapse in oil prices which could leave them out of a job.
It’s simply the supply and demand nature of the market, and this cycle has repeated dozens of times throughout the history of our oil-producing region. Getting oil from the ground and into a usable product requires massive capital investments: rigs, refineries, pipelines, and processing plants all have to be in place before you can turn black-gold into spending money.
So you put this infrastructure in place years (sometimes decades) before you need it. This employs thousands of people in the construction, maintenance, and day-to-day operation of these plants, and while operating at full-tilt begins to push the price of oil down (as supply ramps up).
However, if the price of oil falls below a certain level, it is no longer profitable to use that infrastructure, so you shut it off (laying off those thousands of employees in the process, and putting upward pressure on the oil-price) until the price climbs back up to a level that it’s profitable to produce again, at which point the cycle repeats.
It’s an inherently chaotic cycle, which creates a lot of stress, not only on individual workers but on the larger economy and local and state governments which rely so heavily on the tax revenue from these sectors.
Oil and the Global Market
When you add in the fact that the price of oil functions on a global market, a vast majority of which is entirely outside of the influence of America, and we begin to see that Oil is a very shaky foundation upon which to build an economy.
For the vast majority of my life, ‘getting independent of foreign oil’ was a central talking point of the BOTH parties. And while Republicans used this line as an excuse to push for more drilling here locally, the underlying principle is something that I think we all can get behind.
The international Oil Market is inherently volatile and is subject to the whims of OPEC and other oil-producing nations, many of whom are not very friendly towards American interests. Recently, a spat between Saudi Arabia and Russia led to those countries to flood the market with more oil than could be consumed, which bottomed out the oil price at exactly the wrong time for the American economy.
We were already going through a contraction in demand for oil as the economy locked down in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and now geopolitics from half a world away were making it harder for us to stay on our feet here in Texas.
We need to take a serious look at whether it is wise to leave oil production as the basis of our local economy, especially when better, more stable, affordable, and environmentally friendly options exist.
The Economic Benefits of Solar and Wind Plants
While many of us already understand the environmental benefits of moving to the next generation of renewable energy production, there is a strong and compelling economic argument to make the shift as well. Installing Solar and Wind plants, both on the industrial and residential scale, are two of the fastest-growing job markets in the country. There are also large investments being made in battery and transmission technology, many by companies right here in Texas.
These are industries that can function independently of chaotic global markets, the resources are consumed and produced at roughly the same locations. By using the natural resources of our state, the sun that shines so relentlessly in Texas for most of the year, and the wind that sweeps across the vast planes and coastal regions, we can free ourselves from the clutches of international cartels like OPEC.
For all the criticism that renewable energy receive for the transient nature of the sun and wind, they are far more reliable than hinging our economy on a commodity that requires that huge chunks of its employees be laid off on a fairly routine basis.
This is issues at the center of my Candidacy for State Representative; we lack a cohesive state-wide plan to bring advanced energy solutions to Texas and I am dedicated to fixing that.
Far too many of our current elected officials are beholden to the Oil and Gas Industry, which is not only dooming us to generations of environmental crisis but holds our economy ransom when oil prices chaotically fluctuate. Come join my campaign at www.Travis4TX.com
“I am a lifelong Texan and grew up in Clear Lake. I moved to Pearland just after marrying my wife, Christine. We were looking for a place to set down roots and raise our family. In Pearland, we found a vibrant and diverse community full of passionate and engaged people facing new challenges and opportunities. We now have a 1-year-old son, Jude, and I couldn’t be happier to be raising him here, where he will have friends from every possible background and a school system preparing him for the world.”
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