Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

The world is changing. Louisiana was and is still an energy state but not just in oil. In fact oil is dropping. It is a long time in coming – starting back in the 1970’s.

The heat in the west and floods in the northeast from Tropical Storm Elsa provide more evidence that the world’s climate is changing. I think of Al Gore. The former U.S. senator and vice president held the first congressional hearings on global warming in the 1970s. His 2007 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” offered a clear message on climate change and won him a Nobel Peace Prize. Gore’s public acclaim threatened the special interests responsible for climate-warming, and the politicians who defended them. Now, legal proceedings and independent reporting reveal that fossil-fuel interests knew in the 1950s their products were warming the Earth. An internal ExxonMobil document in 1982 declared the science on climate change “unanimous” and would cause “significant changes” to the Earth’s climate. But the oil industry publicly refuted its own science, like Big Tobacco did when its research blamed smoking for cancer. Exxon and other companies launched a deceitful campaign to question global warming and prevent real action.

Yes, just like with tobacco, the industry, a different one but one still in need of excessive profits, lied to us. That and also did harm to the environment, harm we are still and will still be facing and repairing as much as we can.

My home in Bossier Parish sits atop the Haynesville Shale gas fields. As a landowner, senator and utility regulator, I have had a great deal of involvement with Louisiana oil and gas. It has provided tax revenue, jobs and economic benefit — and a heavy hand on our politics. In the 1980s, Republican Gov. Dave Treen proposed the Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy to address the industry’s damage to our coast with a tax on oil and gas produced offshore and processed in our refineries. In response, industry and its allies, supporters of Treen when he ran in 1979, helped defeat him for reelection in 1983. Oil lobbyists in the 1980s and 1990s similarly scorned my plan to modernize Louisiana’s 1920s system for taxing oil and gas. I said taxing only in-state oil and gas production was wrong when far greater volumes of hydrocarbons produced offshore but processed in Louisiana were untaxed. These hard lessons convinced me that Louisiana labors under the resource curse. A nation or state with its wealth concentrated in a few industries suffers as they bend government to their will.

And of course, as a good public service, the industry flocked to the needs of the state and began to embrace solar and wind energy. Not quite.

The utilities, with backing from other PSC members, ignored wind and actively opposed rooftop solar. In our last solar debate, I predicted the utilities would build their own solar plants to replace fossil-fuel generation. This is where we are headed now. We are an energy state, not just an oil and gas state. We have a climate change task force and are promoting offshore wind. Our coastal industries are building a wind-power sector and utilities are investing in renewables. Al Gore was right on climate. Louisiana is vulnerable to rising seas and damaging storms. We can fight climate change, develop new industries and jobs, and prosper. It is not too late.

It is almost too late. This is why Bart is running for the city council. This is why the industry is now giving lip service to renewable. THis is why the utilities are looking to solar and a wind farm is proposed off shore. More is needed and we need to be advocates.

Yes, we are an energy state – not, though. in the normal fashion
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