Elections 2020EnergyFederalIssuesCongressman Henry Cuellar Breaks from Far Left of Democratic Party at Energy Roundtable

Cuellar is facing a Democratic primary challenge as the eight-term incumbent looks to contrast himself from the more progressive wing of his party.
August 28, 2019
Before a crowd gathered by the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA), South Texas Energy & Economic Roundtable (STEER), and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC), Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) not only lauded bipartisanship but derided the much-discussed “Green New Deal.”

The stance was more than a little ironic considering the location — San Antonio’s Pearl Stable — being in the very city which earlier this year introduced its own version of the “Green New Deal.” 

“At the state and federal level, we must advance energy policies that promote responsible, safe energy development,” Cuellar asserted at the beginning of his keynote speech.

Speaking to the importance of energy production for not only America but Texas specifically, Cuellar stated, “If Texas was a sovereign country, it would rank third in natural gas production behind the United States and Russia.”

Natural gas is a pivotal, if not the pivotal, component of Texas’ ongoing energy boom.

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An innovation that has really made waves in reducing carbon dioxide’s makeup of the atmosphere is a process called carbon capture — wherein carbon dioxide is essentially sucked from the atmosphere and repurposed. 

One company, Global Thermostat, is even exploring ways to use carbon capture for carbonated soft drinks.

Cuellar joined fellow Texan Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02) in introducing a bill to authorize and fund carbon capture research earlier this year. 

Cuellar mentioned this as a positive example of bipartisanship, but lamented that working across the aisle is too few and far between among his colleagues. Echoing a quote he attributed to Lyndon Baines Johnson, he added: “I’m an American first, a Texan second, and a Democrat third.”

Further contrasting himself from the shifting direction of the Democratic Party, especially at the national level, Cuellar said, “In order to continue this economic growth (coming from the energy boom) we still have to invest in pipelines, railroads, roads, and other structures to make sure we’re able to store and deliver the energy to meet those demands.”

Cuellar stated he believes investing in renewables is important but also that our society cannot discard fossil fuels. “Even as we have that transition, we have to depend on oil and gas and look to innovations to help reduce emissions,” he added.

One area of importance that Cuellar points to is academia. 

“Universities and community colleges play a part, not only in the STEM field but the research part too,” he stated.

The congressman went on to say that the “more reliable and lower-priced energy” coming from the energy boom has saved households “an average of $1,337 a year.”

Specifically, about the Green New Deal, Cuellar posited, “Somebody’s got to pay for this.” 

The plan has been estimated to cost upwards of $93 trillion, which Cuellar contrasted with our current $4 trillion per year expenditures.

Cuellar added, “How are we going to replace all the energy jobs lost if this were to be implemented?” 

To Cuellar, there is a happy medium between tossing aside fossil fuels and spurning renewable energy altogether. He says it focuses on reliability, feasibility, and research. 

Cuellar is facing primary challenger Jessica Cisneros, who is backed by Justice Democrats — the organization from which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) sprung to prominence

Cisneros is a supporter of the national Green New Deal.

Much has been made about key battleground races such as Texas-21 between two prominent politicians in the general election. 

But if Tuesday’s speech was any indication, Cuellar’s race may very well represent an equally interesting dynamic: a Texas-sized fight over the future of the Democratic Party and a test for whether more moderate Democrats still have a place in the party.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.