HOUSTON (CN) – U.S. Senator John Cornyn positioned himself at the forefront of the resistance to the Green New Deal on Wednesday in Houston, touting a conservative think tank’s new study that claims the legislation would raise the average Texas family’s annual electricity bill by more than $12,000 over the next decade.
The Green New Deal – decried by Republicans as socialism run amok – aims to meet 100% of the power demand for the U.S. with clean wind and solar energy by 2030.
Though it has little chance of becoming law, the proposal has put the energy industry on the defensive and it is fighting back with some alarming statistics.
Cornyn spoke at a roundtable at Sunbelt Steel in Houston Wednesday. The Republican senator from Texas toured the company’s plant in the warehouse district east of downtown Houston, shaking hands with jumpsuit-clad workers amid stacks of steel pipe used to produce oil-drilling tools.
Mike Kowalski, Sunbelt Steel’s COO, joined the panel and said passage of the Green New Deal would be the company’s death knell. It would be forced to close and its 65 employees would be out of work, he said.
“The Green New Deal would be a deadly deal to businesses like Sunbelt Steel,” Kowalski said. “We play a critical role in the overall supply chain of a healthy economy. Business conditions today are already tough, often they already feel like a fistfight in a phone booth.”
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, analyzed how the legislation would affect Texas’ economy and compiled a report for Cornyn.
The reports’ conclusions predicted trouble for a state that produces nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil a day, almost half the nation’s production.
“If Texas were once again its own country it would rank as the world’s sixth largest energy producer,” said Tim Tarpley, vice president of government affairs for the Petroleum Equipment and Services Association, which represents more than 200 companies.
The energy sector employs more than 292,000 Texans, including 40,000 women, with an average income of $92,000, Tarpley said, speaking from the dais Wednesday to a crowd 30 people, many of whom were Sunbelt Steel employees.
“This sector forms the backbone of the middle class in Texas,” Tarpley said. “While some of these jobs are technical and require advanced degrees many don’t. They just require a good work ethic.”
The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s senior manager Jason Isaac, a one-time Texas state legislator, said the proposal is not feasible for Texas even with its wide open spaces, which have made it the leading producer of wind energy in the U.S.
Isaac said the Green New Deal would require 5 million more acres than are used now for wind and solar farms and electricity battery storage in Texas and 1.2 million more acres for power lines.
Authored by Democratic legislators – U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey – the Green New Deal also proposes to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of preventing global warming from reaching catastrophic levels by 2100.
Isaac claims the Green New Deal’s impact on global warming would be negligible.
He said if the proposal’s all-renewable energy by 2030 goal was met, the reduction in the projected increase in global warming would be just 0.097 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, citing climate models used by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Cornyn said the report is “important ammunition” he can use on Capitol Hill.
“It’s important to be able to ask the right questions,” Cornyn said. “Like is it feasible? How much would it cost? What would it do to the jobs of these men standing behind me?
“And what we’ve learned here at Sunbelt Steel is it would put this business out of business,” he added. “And for what? There’s a lot better ways for us to deal with our concerns about the environment.”
No advocates of the Green New Deal were in the room to push back on Cornyn’s stance or the findings of the report. Two people holding a sign in support of the legislation outside the plant were gone by the time the event ended.
Cornyn has made frequent appearances in Texas this year as he faces what is likely to be his toughest U.S. Senate re-election campaign.
The former Texas attorney general and Texas Supreme Court judge was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002 and has won all three of his Senate elections by at least 12 points, according to the Texas Tribune.
But after former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke nearly unseated U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in November 2018, Cornyn is taking his Democratic challengers seriously.
“We are, I think, no longer the reliably red state we have been. We are at risk of turning purple. And if we don’t do our job, then we could turn blue in the coming years,” Cornyn told the Texas Tribune in June.
He is facing a slew of Democrats including state Senator Royce West of Dallas, Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards and former Air Force pilot MJ Hegar.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s report, titled Green New Deal Puts Texas in the Red, was authored by policy analyst Brent Bennett, who holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering.