Louisiana first Deep South state to get onboard with initiative to lower greenhouse gas emission

Published 9:31 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022

At the start of this year, a Louisiana task force unanimously approved a proposal to lower greenhouse gas emission to “net zero” levels by 2050. It is the first state in the Deep South to do so. Some oil, gas and chemical representatives opposed the use of state government regulation to push emissions down, advocating for the state to rely on market forces to guide the transition.

The argument is that too much change too soon could send industry to other states or possibly other countries with less stringent standards — or put them out of business altogether.

Among those oil, gas and chemical representatives on the task force was Louisiana Chemical Association CEO and President Greg Bowser.

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“Our members are committed to reducing emissions,” he said. “We’ve done that over the last several years, and it’s been done without any legislative mandate,” Bowser said. “We look forward to working with the state and others in not only achieving it but achieving it in a way that does not do undue harm to Louisiana as an economic engine.”

The following three companies with bases of operation here in Southwest Louisiana have been in the process of reducing emissions for some time.

In 2001, Entergy Corporation became the first U.S. electric utility to voluntarily commit to capping greenhouse gas emissions. And recently, the company committed to reducing its carbon emission rate by 50 percent below year 2000 levels by 2030.

In September 2021, Phillips 66 announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity from overall operations by 30 percent and by 15 percent, below 2019 levels, from its energy products by 2030, according to Megan Hartman, Phillips 66 spokesperson.

“These reductions targets are impactful, attainable, measurable and will drive innovation and shareholder value,” she said.

Sasol is already working to reduce its scope 1 and scope 2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030 using renewable energy, process optimization and carbon capture, use and storage, according to Sarah Hughes, local Sasol spokesperson.

Scope 1 emissions are those that occur from sources that we own or control, explained Hughes. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions associated with electricity, steam, heating or cooling.

Bowzer cautions that “overly burdensome state demands could threaten our state’s largest job creators,” he said.

He said in addition to the thousands of jobs provided by chemical industries and millions of dollars invested in the economy when a chemical facility is built or expands, wages are higher in the chemical industry and those jobs include health insurance and retirement.

Bowzer also questions the timeline and buy-in of meeting the net zero goal.

“If you don’t have the technology to get there, you can’t rush it or it will wreck the economy,” he said, “and if neighboring states don’t participate in a net zero plan, for instance, Texas, will industry go to Texas? At a minimum we need a regional approach.”

About half of the U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions were from petroleum use in 2020, according to International Energy Outlook. Louisiana has been known as a gas and oil state. Proponents of that industry agree with Bowzer: the transition away from fossil fuels should be slow and rely on carbon capture to reduce refinery emissions.

Some would argue the net zero approach has to be worldwide and any solution that reduces U.S. emissions, but increases global emissions, is not a solution. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a time when oil prices are climbing could renew an emphasis on energy independence and signal a change to net zero goals, hinted Bowzer.

Jim Rock, Lake Area Industry Alliance executive Director believes any impact “from the tragedy taking place in Ukraine is uncertain but unlikely in the near term.”

He sees the conflict as short term.

“If anything, the demand for the products that come from the industries will continue to be strong as a result. The demand for energy sources such as gasoline, jet fuel and liquified natural gas (LNG) is likely to grow as those sources from Russia are compromised due to the conflict,” he said.