The American oil industry has raked in billions upon billions of dollars as rampant oil consumption has driven the world’s economy, but now that the tides are rising, big oil wants U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill in protecting refineries from the effects of climate change.
According to The Associated Press, Texas is seeking billions in federal funding to build an almost 60-mile “spine” composed of “concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast”.
> Like other oceanfront projects, this one would protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure, but it also has another priority — to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it.
> The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world's largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas' 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation's refining capacity.
Of the $12 billion Texas is requesting, the majority would come from the federal government, which already fast-tracked $3.9 billion for smaller storm barrier projects specifically intended to protect oil refineries in the wake of Hurricane Harvey last year.
> "Our overall economy, not only in Texas but in the entire country, is so much at risk from a high storm surge," said Matt Sebesta, a Republican who as Brazoria County judge oversees a swath of Gulf Coast.
While the economic value of oil facilities is not hotly contested, the notion that taxpayers should foot the bill to protect them from the effects of climate change is difficult to swallow for many people.
> "The oil and gas industry is getting a free ride," said Brandt Mannchen, a member of the Sierra Club's executive committee in Houston. "You don't hear the industry making a peep about paying for any of this and why should they? There's all this push like, 'Please Senator Cornyn, Please Senator Cruz, we need money for this and that.'"
> Normally outspoken critics of federal spending, Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz both backed using taxpayer funds to fortify the oil facilities' protections and the Texas coast. Cruz called it "a tremendous step forward."
Three sections of the storm barrier could see work begin in several months, though the plans still need to be finalized.
The current proposals initially included protections for larger sections of the Texas coast, but the AP reports those plans were scaled back and now intentionally focus on protecting refineries.
> Protecting a wide expanse will be expensive. After Harvey, a special Texas commission prepared a report seeking $61 billion from Congress to "future proof" the state against such natural disasters, without mentioning climate change, which scientists say will cause heavier rains and stronger storms.
> Texas has not tapped its own rainy day fund of around $11 billion. According to federal rules, 35 percent of funds spent by the Army Corps of Engineers must be matched by local jurisdictions, and the GOP-controlled state Legislature could help cover such costs. But such spending may be tough for many conservatives to swallow.