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Texas' Biggest Oil And Gas Industry Group Accepts Role In Climate Change

An oil rig outside Midland, Texas.
Gabriel C. Pérez
The president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association acknowledged Tuesday that fossil fuels contribute to global warming.

The head of the Texas Oil and Gas Association said Tuesday his group agrees fossil fuels contribute to global warming and that the industry will find ways to reduce emissions.

“I think Texas is at risk if we don’t have a very real, factual-based conversation about our climate, about our environment, and about the progress that needs to be made,” Todd Staples, president of TXOGA, said in a media conference call. “I think Texas-based oil and natural gas companies are committed to making climate progress. They’re committed to a lower emissions future.”

Scientists have said for more than a century that emitting carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels heats up Earth’s atmosphere. But, until recently, industry representatives and their political allies have avoided acknowledging the link publically.

Before taking over at TXOGA, Staples was Texas' agriculture commissioner. He was among a group that sued the EPA in 2010 to stop it from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, claiming the rules were based on “fabricated science.”

Staples said his comments Tuesday were “fairly consistent” with other statements he's made recently. But while he has addressed methane emissions and climate in the past, the remarks appear to be his most unambiguous linking oil and gas to global warming.

But that doesn’t mean his group will support regulation to curb emissions.

Since arriving at TXOGA, Staples has criticized the Paris climate agreement, EPA methane reduction rules and local efforts to combat warming like a plan adopted last year in San Antonio.

The comments come amid a public relations push from the American Petroleum Institute, the country’s largest oil and gas lobby, to paint the industry as a proactive force in the fight against climate change.

The goal seems to be to highlight innovations like carbon capture technology to argue fossil fuels should remain a major energy source in a decarbonized economy.

That rebranding has been described as “embarrassing” by environmental groups.

Many clean energy researchers also argue that building out renewable power generators and electrifying the transportation sector to transition away from fossil fuels is the most surefire way to avoid the increasingly catastrophic impacts of climate change. 

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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