SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: December 7, 2019
SNIP: In the same month that Greta Thunberg addressed a UN summit and millions of people took part in a global climate strike, lawmakers in America’s leading oil- and gas-producing state of Texas made a statement of their own.
Texas’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Act went into effect on 1 September, stiffening civil and criminal penalties specifically for protesters who interrupt operations or damage oil and gas pipelines and other energy facilities.
Within a couple of weeks, two dozen Greenpeace activists who dangled off a bridge over the Houston ship channel became the first people charged under the new law, which allows for prison sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to $500,000 for protest groups.
With kindred spirits in the Trump White House, Texas is now intensifying its support of the fossil fuel industry and, pipeline by pipeline, literally laying the groundwork for production to ramp up even more in the next decade.
The scale of new production is “staggering”, according to an analysis by Global Witness, a campaign group, with Texas leading the way as US output of oil and gas is forecast to rise by 25% over the next decade. This makes it a “looming carbon timebomb”, the group believes, in a period when global oil and gas production needs to drop by 40% to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
“The sheer scale of this new production dwarfs that of every other country in the world and would spell disaster for the world’s ambitions to curb climate change,” the report states.
The US is already the planet’s leading producer of oil and gas and central to its rise is the Permian Basin, a shale region of about 75,000 sq miles extending from west Texas into New Mexico.
In March, the Permian overtook Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar to become the world’s most productive oilfield. While Saudi Arabia’s overall production remains far higher, predictions that the Permian’s output will continue to grow at a similar rate – doubling by 2023 as pipeline capacity expands and major oil companies increase their presence – are alarming environmentalists.
The pace of drilling, low prices and lack of capacity have led to the Permian’s frackers producing more natural gas than the infrastructure system can handle, prompting them to vent gas or deliberately burn it off in an environmentally harmful process known as flaring.
“We probably have some of the worst air that we’ve ever had out here in west Texas” Collins said. “Every night we flare out here, let off natural gas, a lot of it really fugitive emissions because we don’t have the regulators out here.”