By MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (AP) – On his trip to an international climate change conference, Governor John Bel Edwards recognized Louisiana’s obvious front-row seat in addressing the issues of a warming planet while strengthening its visibility on a problem few in the South. leaders promote.
The Democratic governor became more vocal when speaking of the dangers of climate change during his second term. But Edwards tries to balance that discussion while outlining the importance of the oil and gas industry to Louisiana. Meanwhile, the types of so-called clean energy projects touted by the governor have drawn criticism within the environmental community.
Edwards was one of at least six US governors, all Democrats, who attended part of the United Nations climate change conference in Scotland, known as COP26. At least two states led by Republican governors also sent representatives to the event.
âI suspect that I am the first governor of Louisiana, my state, to speak clearly and repeatedly about climate change. But I’m also sure I won’t be the last, âEdwards said in a live chat with President Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry.
At events in Glasgow, the governor highlighted years of coastal land loss, the five major hurricanes that have hit the state in the past 14 months, the winter storm and the series of flash floods as he described Louisiana as “the zero point” for climate change impacts.
âWhile we cannot definitively identify a storm and say it would not have happened without climate change, we do know that the frequency and severity of these severe weather events are increasing. And we know it’s because of climate change, âhe said.
Edwards joined Louisiana in the international Race to Zero campaign, which aims to reduce net carbon emissions worldwide to zero by 2050. A climate change task force he created is working on a strategic document on how to achieve this goal for Louisiana. And the governor has been promoting Louisiana as a hub for clean energy projects.
As he makes the pitch, Edwards cannot ignore that tens of thousands of jobs in his state are linked to fossil fuels and that the oil and gas industry is one of the main funders of coastal restoration work. of Louisiana. Although he has had a difficult relationship with the industry, Edwards argues that oil and gas companies need to be involved in energy advancements that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Mike Moncla, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, was skeptical that other attendees at the United Nations climate change conference would hear Edwards’ message about the importance of the industry.
âWhile we appreciate (the governor’s) rhetoric about including oil and gas in the climate change conversation, I think it’s going to fall on deaf ears above their heads. Biden’s plan from day one must be to decimate the oil and gas, âMoncla said.
He suggested that Edwards could raise his profile on climate change issues to position himself for another role, as he has a limited term as governor.
“He probably sees that bowing to these topics could allow him to land a federal job in the future,” Moncla said.
Officials from the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association said the industry was working with the Edwards administration to design projects involving carbon capture and sequestration and other cleaner energy efforts.
Edwards recently announced that an industrial gas supplier will build a $ 4.5 billion “blue hydrogen” facility in Ascension Parish that uses natural gas to produce an alternative fuel with carbon dioxide emissions stored underground.
âOur industry remains committed to working with Governor Edwards and our state to tackle climate change and grow our economy, while striving to provide the affordable, reliable and responsible energy that American households need,â Lori LeBlanc, interim president of Louisiana Mid. -Continent Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement.
Environmentalists are wary of carbon capture technology, saying it prolongs reliance on fossil fuels. Additionally, Edwards’ efforts to attract biomass production sites that fuel energy with wood pellets have drawn criticism that factories emit high levels of carbon emissions and lead to deforestation.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear what will happen when Edwards steps down in January 2024.
Edwards told Glasgow conference attendees that his successor cannot ignore the global transition to cleaner energy goals, as these projects represent important economic development and job creation for states.
“I don’t believe the next governor will be able to go back even if he doesn’t think like me,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte has covered Louisiana politics for The Associated Press since 2000. Follow her at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.
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