Oil is under attack and renewables are in ascendance. Oil is losing jobs while renewables are gaining them. Where is Louisiana in all of this change? This is a question that should be raised but the state seems to be stuck on oil. Bob Marshall discusses this question.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago, Louisiana’s political and civic leaders admitted what science and facts on the ground had been shouting for decades: If the state was to have a sustainable future, it urgently needed to embark on a holistic effort to address our sinking, crumbling, drowning coastal zone. So they enthusiastically supported creating the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to develop such a plan. Now, with climate change advancing faster than predicted, those same leaders urgently need to create a new agency to develop another plan essential to our coastal future. Call it the Coastal Economic Survival Authority.nola.com
Job loss is a fear for many: the state, the economy and those employed in the targeted industries. This Coastal Economic Survival Authority would look at all jobs available and at employment trends. They would look at jobs currently populated and, again trends, of jobs coming on line and in the future.
Its plan would address the biggest reason many Louisianans and others around the nation are still fighting climate action: a very real fear of financial ruin. It would provide solutions for the economic and social toll taking place in oil communities as the world shifts to renewable fuels to help prevent climate disaster. By helping its workforce transition, Louisiana can also help reduce the emissions causing sea level rise that could undo its coastal master plan. But we have a limited window of time to act.
Yet, the state is dithering. They are complaining about the “war on oil”. They are ignoring thinking about the future as they are stuck in the past. Colorado is a state that looked to the future.
Colorado, for example, has opened an Office of Just Transition that developed a plan to find employment for workers losing their jobs to climate demands. Its title is one Louisiana should embrace. It recognizes justice not only demands moving away from fossil fuels but also helping workers displaced by an emergency that society helped create. Wade Buchanan, leading Colorado’s office, said it best in a report from CNBC: “They powered our prosperity and they are quite proud of what they’ve done, and should be, and now they are being told for the good of humanity they need to stop. That’s a hard message to take, even if you understand and believe in it, and if you don’t, it becomes even harder.”
The President seems to care more about the laid off oil workers than the industry and part of his economic plan is to provide $100 million dollars to support re-training. But, where can the oil workers go? They are used to the Gulf, working in that environment. What transferable skills does Louisiana offer? What industries do we have that can convert from oil to renewables? It turns out – a lot.
There likely will always be some employment offshore because green-energy experts know we’ll need standby oil- and gas-powered generators during periods of adverse weather. Indeed, last week almost half of Texas’ massive wind turbine fields were stopped by ice while the output of some solar panels around the nation were blocked by a blanket of clouds or snow. Yet even the oil industry says its current contraction will continue, so forward-looking states like Colorado, New Mexico and West Virginia are already reaching out for help to plan that future. Meanwhile, Louisiana leaders spend their time crying about a future they can’t prevent. The good news for Louisiana is few states are better positioned to fill that void. Reports by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last year showed the wind energy in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico could produce half the nation’s electricity needs, and that Louisiana was positioned to develop that potential due to its existing industrial base constructing and maintaining offshore oil and gas structures. But we’ll have competition from Texas, as well as other coastal states.
We also have the coastal master plan that is driving an environmental economic plan. To give Bob the last word:
It’s clear salvation for Louisiana oil industry workers doesn’t rest in the hands of the politicians and companies fighting a change they can’t stop. It rests in the recognition by leaders moving quickly to accept the future and retrain our workforce — or we’ll be left behind.
We need to listen and move to the future.