Houston is poised to lead energy development after climate change

87
3
Houston is poised to lead energy development after climate change

Houston built its riches on the back of the fossil fuel industry, with the Gulf Coast home to the largest refinery in the U.S.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said his city is primed to lead the world in energy development after climate change.

It has got to change in the way we have done things in the past, and that's where we are partnering with the energy sector, said Turner. A climate action plan launched last year stands at the center of Houston s transition. The city has changed its gas emissions by 37% since 2005 and aims to achieve carbon neutrality in 2018 including Paris Agreement.

Since July 2020, 100% renewable energy powers the facilities of Houston, including all airports, according to Turner. We utilize more renewables than any other city in the country, and EPA U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has noted the fact, he said.

Six '500-year-old floods' in five years have caused six 'indisicible floods' in the past.

Sylvester was forced to adapt in part because of the natural disasters his city has faced during his time in office.

Just four months into his tenure in 2016, record rain flooded homes across the Bayou City in an event known locally as the Tax Day Floods. Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, broke these records just 16 months later, dumping 36 inches of rain across the city and killing nearly 100 people. In February of this year, Winter Storm Uri led to a massive power failure across the state of Texas, leaving millions of homes without heat and killing more than 200 people.

In the last five years, Turner said his city has faced six 500-year floods alone.

There is no question that these storms are coming with greater frequency and greater intensity, causing a lot more damage, Sylvester said. Getting the energy industry on board?

As the chair of Climate Mayors, a nationwide coalition focused on combating impacts from climate change, Turner is now tasked with helping other U.S. cities make the transition to a low-carbon future. But he faces significant hurdles in his own city as energy capital of the world — getting to know the oil and gas industry and transitioning Houston's economy away from its traditional lifeline.

A hub of more than 500 oil and gas firms, Houston s modern future has thrived on the back of fossil fuel industry. In a recent report, the International Energy Agency IEA said that the development of all new oil, gas and coal fields would need to be halted immediately, to slow the dangerous rise in global temperatures. The oil-producing businesses, including the Houston-based ConocoPhillips, are on track to see its production output decreased by more than 50%, according to financial think tank The Carbon Tracker Initiative.

Turner said the city is partnering with the energy sector to develop carbon capture technology, while cooperating with the move to cleaner energy sources like hydrogen. Houston is also doubled down on solar energy by turning a 240 - acre landfill into the largest urban solar farm in the country. Once finished, Turner said the facility could produce enough energy to power 5,000 homes and offset an estimated 120 million pounds of carbon emissions every year.

We need the energy industry to be at the table, he said. We are going to have to focus on infrastructure resilience climate tech, all of those things that will help us not repeat the same mistakes because these storms are not waiting for us to move. Follow her on Twitter at AkikoFujita.com/Twitter (@_AkkikoFujita):