Louisiana experts say renewable energy not a threat to state, economy

In his first week in office, President Joe Biden signed executive orders to eliminate many federal subsidies for fossil fuels starting next year and pause new oil and gas permits on federal lands.

Louisiana congressional delegation expressed outrage about Biden’s decision. Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican, said the changes would be “devastating to Louisiana,” and Sen. Bill Cassidy, called Biden’s use of the term “Cancer Alley” a “slam upon our state.” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is leading a lawsuit against Biden’s moratorium on oil and gas leases.

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But local economic and environmental experts say it’s time for Louisiana to join the global shift to renewable energy, both to ease coastal erosion and to offset the economic and job losses that now seem inevitable. The state ranks 38th in the country in renewable energy production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Experts warn that if Louisiana continues to move more slowly than other states, it could lose business and jobs to the others.

Terry Chambers, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, gives a tour of the school's Photovoltaic Applied Research and Testing (PART) Lab.

Renewable energy still a perceived threat

Dr. John Pardue, an environmental engineer and professor at Louisiana State University, said energy states like Texas and Oklahoma, have been developing their renewable industries for two decades, and Biden’s orders will cut further into the demand for Louisiana’s oil and gas.

“That’s going to make it more challenging for the state to kind of move forward, but it should be a clear warning to the states that we’re going to have to start diversifying our economy because this isn’t going to last forever,” Pardue said.

More:‘Another blow’: 7,500 Louisiana oil and gas jobs lost in pandemic, furthering industry’s decline

Dr. Terrence Chambers, director of the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the worldwide shift toward renewables has been driven as much by economics as politics as the cost of solar and wind power has dropped significantly.

Dr. Terrence Chambers of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette said Louisiana has not committed as much as it should to shifting toward renewable energy.

In Louisiana, he said, “there’s going to have to be a commitment to make a shift. I think that Louisiana is having this conversation now, and we’re grappling with the issue right now, but I don’t think that we have made the commitment as a state to really make the shift.”

For many Louisianans, renewable energy is still perceived as a threat. After all, Louisiana is known as an oil and gas state, and the industry has long been considered a pillar of the state’s economy.