Commentary

Louisiana can’t afford to be oil and gas exclusive

April 12, 2022 3:54 pm
a view of a wind turbine in front of the sun

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There are a number of ways you could describe Rep. Danny McCormick, but man of mystery is not one of them. He proudly wears his conservative Christian beliefs on his sleeve, often to the discomfort of those who prefer a firm separation between church and state. He also ardently touts his pro-2nd Amendment views, backing a proposal to do away with concealed weapons permits.

So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that McCormick — a Republican from Oil City, Louisiana, who’s the owner of M&M Oil Co. — would be a staunch advocate for the fossil fuel industry. All he needs is a home address on Drill Baby Drill Avenue.

What’s disappointing, however, is that McCormick’s lens toward the future is also heavily coated in petroleum. He sponsored a resolution to exclude solar and wind energy projects from the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program, arguing that those alternative power sources should be placed on an “even playing field” with oil and gas.

When McCormick’s proposal went before a House committee last week, his colleagues were quick to point out that refineries are among the beneficiaries of industrial property tax breaks, as are plants that generate electricity. If anything, the field would be tilted if solar and wind were excluded from the incentive, they said.

Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, saw the bigger picture that eluded McCormick. By making incentives off-limits to alternative energy projects, Louisiana would be sending the wrong message to investors in a burgeoning industry. 

“I just think it’s an awful idea for the Legislature to say, ‘No, we’re going to turn our back and just pass up these opportunities because we’re an oil and gas state,’” Willard said.

Reps. Joe Orgeron, R-Larose, and Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, R-Houma, recognize those opportunities. They have co-sponsored House Bill 165, which would expand the lease size for wind energy projects in state waters just off the coast. The proposal might be more symbolic than practical, given that bigger wind farms are envisioned in deeper federal waters, although Orgeron said pilot wind projects could be built along the Louisiana coast.

Their bill advanced easily from the House on a 92-10 vote and awaits a hearing in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

McCormick voluntarily deferred his resolution in the House Ways and Means Committee when Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner Magee, R-Houma, made a motion to ice the proposal for good. It followed a somewhat testy exchange between the two in which Magee questioned whether McCormick actually understood the intent of the resolution.

“I think we’re getting confused on your questions,” McCormick told Magee.

“I think you’re getting confused on your own bill,” Magee replied. 

Several state lawmakers recognize Louisiana is uniquely poised to carve out a niche in the wind energy industry, having a history steeped in offshore energy fabrication. Utility companies and industry have already invested heavily in solar alternatives, acknowledgement that diversity of power sources is not just aspirational policy. It just makes good sense as they map out a path toward reliability and affordability.               

We encourage McCormick to read the Texas tea leaves carefully if he’s considering bringing his resolution back up again. His fears of an all-green outlook for Louisiana are misguided, as the state will always be oil and gas reliant to a great extent. It’s just high time that we’re no longer oil and gas exclusive.

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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