NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — President-elect Joe Biden says he wants to transition from the oil industry to invest in green industries to fight climate change. The oil and gas industry is huge for Louisiana so there are many questions about how Biden’s plans may affect our state and the future of the energy industry.
“I think it’s scary to everybody who lives in our area,” said Brok Torbert.
Torbert works offshore on deep water projects. He’s been working in the oil and gas industry since 2011. That’s why Joe Biden’s plans for the oil industry are at the top of his mind.
“I would transition from the oil industry,” Biden said during the presidential debate on October 22. “Because the oil industry pollutes significantly.”
Louisiana is the number two producer of crude oil and the number four producer of natural gas in the United States. According to a 2020 report, the industry has a nearly $74 billion economic impact in the state and supports about 250,000 jobs. That’s why Torbert and others in the industry worry Biden’s plans to move from fossil fuels could be devastating along the Gulf Coast.
“I think the big thing losing a job and is the town that I live in, Houma, is it going to be the same in 5 10 years or do we have to get up and move and start a new career,” Torbert said.
Biden's climate plan calls for the U.S. to have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Executive Director for the Tulane Energy Institute, Pierre Conner explains that plans like this have already been in the works for years.
“The way I think about this is the Biden presidency's impact to the Louisiana energy industry basically shines a light on a letter that’s been in the mail to us for a while, maybe postmarked before the election if you will. There’s a transition underway around the world for lower carbon energy sources and lower carbon emissions industrial processes so its underway already. I think the good news is we've been preparing for this," Conner said.
Conner said the Tulane Energy Institute has a renewable and sustainable energy program to prepare for this shift from fuels that pollute to cleaner energy.
“We're prepared for this and we knew it was coming. If anything, maybe we get highlighted that we're in the right spot," he said.
Some major companies are already transitioning. Last week, Shell announced it would close a plant in Saint James Parish to move to greener industry. That was a loss of 675 jobs.
“I do see some sort of green energy plan from these major companies like BP, Chevron, Shell. Now what does that mean for us in the immediate future? I don’t know,” Torbert said.
Conner explains the transition will be gradual and he believes there's an opportunity for Louisiana to benefit from this newer, green, energy industry in the long run.
“We can position ourselves to take advantage of any kind of shifts,” Torbert said.
Biden's plan to wean the country off oil and gas is a 30 year plan. Energy experts believe while jobs in the traditional energy sectors may gradually go down, there will be jobs growing in other energy sectors like solar, wind, hydrogen, and natural gas.