NewsLocal News


Texas lawmakers fight Biden's executive order on climate change

Abbott Oil and Gas Order.jpg
Posted at 9:16 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 23:41:19-05

Texas lawmakers are speaking out after President Joe Biden signed an executive order halting new oil leases on federal lands and stopping construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Governor Greg Abbott traveled to the Permian Basin Thursday to meet with leaders of the oil and gas industries. He also announced a new executive order, aimed at battling the new regulations.

"I direct every state agency to use all lawful powers and tools to challenge any federal action that threatens the continued strength, vitality and independence of the energy industry," Abbott said in the order.

But, energy experts say Biden's order may not have the impact Abbott and other Texas officials fear.

Ed Hirs, a University of Houston Energy Fellow, says Texas may actually benefit from it, because the state does not have much federally-owned land.

Only 1.9% of the land in the Lone Star State is federally-owned, and little is used for drilling. As a result, most of the production in the state will remain untouched by the order.

Hirs says few Texans will likely lose their jobs as a result.

"The state of Texas maintained its land as a condition of our statehood, so the impact is not really going to be appreciable here," Hirs said.

The oil and gas industry was hit hard by the pandemic. In April, crude oil prices dropped below -$37 a barrel. It was the first time West Texas Intermediate Crude erased its entire value.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates global consumption of petroleum and liquid fuels averaged 92.2 million barrels a day for all of 2020, down by 9.0 million in 2019.

Now, Texas lawmakers fear the extra regulation could mean more bad news for oil workers.

In addition to outcry from Texas Republicans, four Democratic U.S. Representatives from the Lone Star State are calling on Biden to rescind his executive order.

"I think this is largely symbolic," Texas Senator John Cornyn said. "But it's not symbolic to people who are losing their jobs."

Hirs says while the regulations will not likely have many negative economic impacts in Texas, they are not the most effective way to produce effective climate change.

"If we just shut off access to oil from federal lands and Canada, we're just going to get that oil in by tanker into the Houston Ship Channel just like we did 20 years ago," he said.

According to Hirs, passing off production will not help until consumers limit their use of oil and gas.

"Just putting federal lands off limits doesn't change the consumer's behavior. It's a global market. You shut off one node and the other nodes will step in to fill the void," he said.

Texas led the country in natural gas consumption during 2019, according to the EIA.



(trillion cubic feet)

Percent of

U.S. Consumption

Texas4.62 Tcf14.9%
California2.15 Tcf6.9%
Louisiana1.86 Tcf6.0%
Pennsylvania1.61 Tcf5.2%
Florida1.55 Tcf5.0%

Hirs suggests adopting measures like Eisenhower's Oil Import Quota instead. This would remove OPEC's crude from the U.S. market and drive up the price of gas, leading Americans to opt for more fuel-efficient vehicles to save money.