Some Democrats in Texas are running against the oil and gas business
Living in the refinery town of Pasadena, Sema Hernandez has seen the oil and gas industry up close.Hernandez is living in a fantasy land where inefficient alternative energy can replace fossil fuels. It is too undependable and the overall cost is not competitive. It would also create a recession that would lead to not only the loss of oil and gas jobs but a recession in the housing market where people could lose their houses. There are many jobs that depend on a robust oil and gas business that have no direct ties to the business, From retail to realtors people would lose their jobs. Even people in the news business would find themselves out of work as the ad business also suffered.
Hernandez knows how the sight of flares and the sound of sirens puts her neighbors on edge. She has studied cancer clusters and disasters such as the Texas City refinery explosion. She has asked doctors about the dangers the chemicals pose to her kids.
She says her ex-husband, who worked as a contractor for many gas-and-oil outfits in the Houston area, told her of the shortcuts the companies take. And, through him, she’s seen the jobs in the industry disappear, just as fast as they came.
“That’s the one thing about fossil fuel jobs,” said Hernandez, a progressive Democrat running for the second time for U.S. Senate. “They’re not permanent jobs. They are temporary jobs.”
Hernandez, who brought in roughly a quarter of the vote in her 2018 primary run against former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, is one of at least three Democrats in the primary election who have sworn off taking money from the industry, unafraid of the message it might send to voters working in those jobs — hundreds of thousands in Houston alone.
They argue that Texas, the nation’s top producer of wind energy, can lead the nation in transitioning to all forms of clean energy as well, creating plenty of jobs in the process. And they say it’s a vitally important move in the face of a climate crisis, as evidenced by repeated massive floods hammering Houston in recent years.
It’s a new approach for Democrats in the state where oil and gas has long reigned supreme. Even Beto O’Rourke accepted hundreds of thousands in donations from the industry in his 2018 Senate run — bringing in the second-most in donations from the industry of any Senate candidate that year, behind only his rival, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Other Democrats in the Senate race have already accepted thousands from the industry, which they say will be a key partner in the eventual transition to clean energy.
But this talk of phasing out fossil fuels will cost them in Texas, one veteran Republican strategist says.
“It’s the third rail of politics in Texas,” said Jeff Roe, who ran Cruz’s 2018 campaign and said attacks on O’Rourke’s record on energy were crucial to Cruz’s victory. “It makes everything you want to say about them true — job killing, taxes, big government. It makes it all true when you mess with the economic engine in the state.”