BROWNSVILLE, Texas — At a recent house party near the U.S.-Mexico border, the conversation with Democratic congressional candidate Rochelle Garza flowed from schools and taxes to immigration and efforts to convert an old railway line into a hiking trail.

One thing that didn’t come up that Friday night over Corona beers and Domino’s deep dish pizza: the effort by Democrats in Washington to use a massive federal spending package to beat back climate change.

“It’s not that the district is more moderate or moderately more conservative,” said Garza, 36, an immigration lawyer running for the House seat held by retiring centrist Democrat Filemon Vela. “Talking about how you’re going to meaningfully impact families and make healthier families and healthier communities, I think that matters to people a lot more than some of these hot button issues.”

Democrats across the nation are poised to go bigger than ever on the environment as part of the sweeping spending package they are trying to muscle through Congress. President Joe Biden has traveled the country sounding the alarm, blaming a warming planet for devastation from wildfire-ravaged California to hurricane-battered New York and warning of a “code red for humanity.”

But that focus could create political problems in energy rich areas. That includes South Texas, where many Latino voters turned against Democrats during last year’s presidential election, and winning them back could prove critical to the party’s hopes of retaining control of Congress during the 2022 midterms.

“They’re really making it easy on us,” said Mayra Flores, a 35-year-old respiratory care practitioner and organizer for former President Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. Flores is also running for Vela’s seat and argues Democrats are forcing Texans to choose between their energy sector jobs and curbing climate change.

Trump won 38 percent of the national Latino vote last year, 10 percentage points more from in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. Some of his most dramatic gains came in heavily Hispanic areas that produce large amounts of oil and gas, including the district Garza and Flores want to represent.

It stretches from Brownsville, where there are proposals to build liquified natural gas terminals for export, more than 150 miles north to sparsely populated portions of the hydraulic fracturing-dependent Eagle Ford Shale.

Last year, Biden won Cameron County, which encompasses Brownsville and is about 90 percent Hispanic. But Trump’s margin of the vote increased there by 20 percentage points over 2016. Farther north, Trump flipped oil- and gas-producing, but still heavily Hispanic, Jim Wells and Kleberg counties.

“We are very dependent on oil and gas. That’s the reason you saw those numbers,” said Flores, who was born in Mexico, came to the United State at age 6 and picked cotton every summer growing up after age 12. “That’s what people do. That’s where they work.”

Biden has signed an executive order halting new oil and gas leases in federal territory, though it was blocked by a court order this summer.

The spending package being debate in Congress seeks to push efforts to fight climate change into overdrive, however. It includes language on instituting high fees for polluters and tax incentives for clean energy and electric cars, while introducing new requirements that the nation’s power grid rely more heavily on renewable energy sources.

Rolando Lozano, a 62-year-old manager at an electric utility, was one of 200-plus people who recently filled a community center in the border town of Harlingen, west of Brownsville, to see Flores and other Latino Republican candidates. He said Democrats have moved so far to the left that “it looks anti-American.”

“It’s almost blatantly in the citizens’ face,” Lozano said. “You can call it by any other name, but, fundamentally, it looks wrong.”

That feeling is far from universal among Hispanics, however. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll in September found that 58 percent of Hispanics say they approve of Biden’s handling of climate change while 38 percent disapprove.

Amanda Davé, a public health community campaign project manager in Brownsville, grew up in Houston, where her father worked in the oil and gas industry. But she believes protecting the environment is more important than appeasing energy interests.

“They try to put forward this message of ‘We’re bringing jobs. We’re bringing jobs. We’re bringing jobs.’ But a lot of people now see it as, they’re trying to exploit our natural resources,” said Davé, 35, who attended Garza’s house party. “I think there’s a consciousness that’s developing around how to protect what is here. What makes it special.”

Still, Gabriel Sanchez, executive director of the University of New Mexico’s Center for Social Policy, said threats of climate change traditionally poll as more pressing concerns among Latinos than the population at large — unless they are presented in terms of job losses. He said that in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and other energy producing states, “you’ve had tension for awhile.”

“Latinos are extremely conscious on climate change and support dang near every progressive policy there is to curb it,” Sanchez said. “But you juxtapose that with potential loss of jobs, that’s when you start to see a much more even attitude split.”

Potential clashes between energy jobs and environmental changes could also affect the adjacent House district, where Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez — who founded the House Oil and Gas Caucus and has urged the Biden administration not to move too far to the left on environmental issues — was reelected by less than 3 percentage points in 2020. Fast-growing Texas is gaining two new congressional seats after the 2020 census, and the Republican-controlled Legislature has proposed redistricting maps making Gonzalez’s territory more red.

The same tension already helped decide a House seat that flipped Republican last year. In New Mexico, Republican Yvette Herrell defeated Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small in a traditionally conservative district that is about 55 percent Hispanic and includes part of the oil-rich Permian Basin.

During last year’s final presidential debate, Biden promised to “transition” the country away from fossil fuels. Torres Small responded that it was wrong to “demonize” the energy industry and decried the idea of banning fracking, but still lost.

Flores says Biden’s debate comment is still reverberating across South Texas, too.

“I see this rise in the Republican Party,” said Flores, who campaigns under the slogan “Make America Godly Again.” “People are going to go vote to get their jobs back.”

Garza believes climate change-fighting efforts can create high-paying jobs, noting that the district has already added wind farms and could enjoy more opportunities in solar power.

“These are natural resources that we can easily take advantage of to create jobs,” said Garza. Amid the Trump administration’s previous crackdown on immigration, she would approach groups of immigrants waiting on bridges between Mexico and the U.S. and provide presentations on asylum-seekers’ rights.

“I think it’s about focusing on the opportunities that we have,” Garza said of national Democrats’ environmental push. “Republicans like to preach doom.”

Daniel Canales, 33, who is between jobs but attended the Harlingen conservatives’ event, said he and others aren’t opposed to new, more environmentally friendly jobs but often struggle with Democrats’ ideological message.

“The problem is the Democrats seem to be too urban-oriented. They’re too fixated on problems where they live,” Canales said. “Out here, that doesn’t mean much.”

(13) comments

Mike Johnson

"Both the heat-driven August 2020 electricity shortage in California, and the cold-driven February 2021 shortage in Texas, were caused in large part by over-reliance, not under-reliance, on weather-dependent renewables like solar panels and wind turbines. As demonstrated by the temporary freeze-up of even nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants during the Texas cold snap, what the grid needs more reliable baseload generation — not more intermittant supplies."

Robert Fields

Try again, Mike.

“During a historic cold snap that has left millions of Texans without electricity, water, and heat for days, claims that the state’s use of renewable energy sources, specifically wind energy, are to blame have circulated on television and social media. These claims are misleading, as they shift blame for the crisis away from what appears, so far, to be the root cause: record cold temperatures that affected generation and transportation across all fuel types (including, but not limited to, wind energy), combined with the inability of the state’s independent and isolated electricity grid (operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT) to source supplies from elsewhere.“

But here is the kicker:

“Public figures who amplified this narrative include Tucker Carlson, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and U.S. House member Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia.”

Quite a lineup of pro-oil mouthpieces you are probably very familiar with, no?

Robert Fields

But wait! There’s more!

“Contrary to what some state politicians have suggested, the blackouts weren’t primarily the fault of frozen wind turbines. It was essentially a problem with natural gas, which is the state’s primary energy source.”

“Officials for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages most of Texas’ grid, said the primary cause of the outages Tuesday appeared to be the state’s natural gas providers.”

Got to admit, I love this next one - especially the bit about using a 2014 photo from Sweden to attack US wind generation that wasn’t the cause of the outages.

“Some have quickly pointed fingers towards who might be responsible for the catastrophe. After the grid operator mentioned that frozen wind turbines were among the energy sources affected by the icy conditions, some conservative politicians seized on that detail to take aim at renewables, including by sharing an image of a helicopter de-icing a turbine blade that was actually taken in Sweden from 2014. Even setting aside the fact that modern wind turbines can come equipped with de-icing systems and operate just fine in frigid Midwestern winters, it turned out that most of the power systems that went offline in Texas were fossil fuel-based.”

There’s many more discussions out there, Mike. It was largely a failure of the fossil fuel industry compounded by extreme weather caused by a breakdown in weather patterns that block the extreme cold by - you guessed it - global warming.

Mike Johnson

I was a member of ERCOT when I was working, I did an expert analysis podcast on this, these ignorant people do not understand the issues in the Texas grid: "The net impact of the flood of unreliable power and the forced retirement of low-cost baseload power has resulted in Texas experiencing sustained periods of razor-thin reserve margins. Summer 2019 saw two emergency situations in which reserves dropped below 3% of the system load. Both of these alerts occurred on days of low wind output and not on the day of highest demand. Although the effects of COVID-19 are suppressing demand compared to previous projections, Texas is still moving toward a situation where it will not have enough reliable generation during peak times, raising the risk of blackouts." This was written 5 months before the winter blackout, and no the wind turbines didn't;t freeze, there was just no wind, and because so much reliable gas and coal base-load power was taken down and not available, what was available was not enough to handle the needs due to wellhead freezing in the gas fields.

And just look at what power went off when this was wind. Look at the red line on the graph in this story.....that is wind, now look at the orange natgas line....which energy source failed?

Robert Fields


Pretty funny, Mike. Beat that horse, will ya? Poor fella might still be alive!

Let us know when you’ve got something, ok?


Mike Johnson

Have you bought that Tesla yet Mr. Fields??? When are you going to walk the talk and do something about the disaster we are facing?????[lol][lol][lol]

Robert Fields

What am I doing? None of your business and I know you’re looking for a way to attack, but I’m doing everything I’ve advocated. Interesting you now try to attack me this way but you won’t shut me up, Mike.

And while I like some aspects of the Teslas, I’m no fan of Elon Musk and won’t buy one for a number of reasons.

But what I’m not doing is trolling the boards trying to convince anyone who will listen that there is no such thing as global warming, or that if there is it’s natural, or that there is nothing we can do. I’m not defending fossil fuels with nonsense, lies, and distractions. I’m not cherry picking good weather or harvests to try to claim there’s no problem. I’m not trying to hide fossil fuel’s dirty and deadly past, present, and future.

Thing is, Mike, you will always lose these discussions. The science is sound and settled. There’s so much authoritative science from so many respected scientists and organizations that showing why you are wrong is easy. Nobel prizes in physics were just announced and three researchers who were researching and running the first climate models won for their work. Any Nobel prizes for the global warming deniers? None I’m aware of.

Religious leaders have also recognized the dangers and are calling on world leaders. You’ve got religion and science stacked against you now.

Our burning of fossil fuels is heating and killing the planet. These are facts and the facts are not on your side. I know your statements are false and that you cite fossil fuel propaganda. That leaves you with continually-mounting evidence you are wrong and makes it easy to disprove and counter your posts. Every day there’s more proof you are wrong and nobody needs to even understand the concepts beyond what average global temperature is and that it’s increasing and increasing faster. People have eyes and ears and can see what’s happening for themselves.

That you don’t understand this (I suspect you do) is very surprising which is why your agenda and motivation have been of interest. You seem to have some knowledge, and the evidence and conclusions are clear to those who have even minimal scientific background, so why do you charge windmills over and over? I'm really curious what motivates you to come here every day and post climate misinformation and falsehoods. Why do you do it, Mike?

Robert Fields

So you revert to personal attacks, now? Last refuge?

Mike, just do a good job answering why global warming isn’t real, why it’s not caused by fossil fuel CO2, why the temperature and CO2 measurements that have been showing steady increases for decades are wrong, and tell us when the fever is going to break and why, and I would be ecstatic. Really. I honestly would.

I’ve got much more fun things to do with my time than to keep refuting the scat you post. I’d love to not care about global warming. I do have grand nieces and nephews and I care what kind of future they will have. I’d prefer those concerns were the more mundane variety. Doing my part has cost me money I could have used for other things even though it will all pay back over the years. Maybe I’ll still be around to actually profit or maybe I won’t. I’d love to go buy fancy cars. I miss my red, black leather, chrome wires, convertible 1973 V12 XKE - way classier than a Corvette, btw.

So please, instead of personal attacks, just do a good job proving global warming isn’t real and an existential threat to human (and other) life on this planet and you can end this. But you need to explain the science and do it with details. I can handle it. A good part of my background is closely related to the topic. Do it like you keep doing it and I’ll just keep pointing out why it’s wrong.

Unfortunately you don’t show any hope of ever doing that, though. You revert to denialism, bad science, and propaganda.

So please, start using good, peer reviewed science that isn’t from the fossil fuel industry which is already known for denialism and fraud. Good science, Mike. Facts. Scientific principles of chemistry and physics. Explain why global warming isn’t caused by fossil fuels and isn’t a threat to civilization and you won’t need to revert to more personal attacks.

Mike Johnson

Mr. Fields, you continue to ignore where I agree with you, please try to read things I have written. I have said on more than one occasion that #1, CO2 emissions have grown, and in the atmosphere CO2 was increased from about 270 parts per million in 1870, to over 420 parts per million today, that is a proven fact. #2, The earth's average temperature has increased from 1870 to today by just over 1 degree Centigrade, that is a proven fact. #3, The science proves that Tyndall gases, like CO2, CH4, NOx, SOx, etc. are photoactive gases that absorb and then re-emit various energy spectra that warm the atmosphere. And #4, there is not doubt, a large proportion of the temperature increase since 1870 is caused by man's activities in emissions, land use, agriculture, etc. So we totally agree on those facts, yes? Where we do not agree is that this is a disaster that will destroy the earth and life on it in anyone's lifetime, or even significantly affect the earth within our lifetimes. The data does not prove that extreme weather events are caused by CO2 or increased temps, there is no correlation, and thus no possible cause/effect couplet to show. You are worried about it, I look at the science and data, with the perspective of my paleoclimatology background, and see nothing to get so concerned about I want to abandon my lifestyle or advise any family and friends to either. And BTW, any midyear fuelie or 427 Corvette could blow the doors off an XKE. Very beautiful cars, but not fast enough for me......remember the Jan and Dean song....I was cruisin' in my Stingray late one night

When an XKE pulled up on the right

And rolled down the window of his shiny new Jag

And challenged me then and there to a drag

I said, "You're on, buddy, my mill's runnin' fine

Let's come off the line now, at Sunset and Vine

But I'll throw you one better if you've got the nerve

Let's race all the way

To Dead Man's Curve

"The street was deserted late Friday night

We were buggin' each other while we sat out the light

We both popped the clutch when the light turned green

You should of heard the whine from my screamin' machine

I flew past LaBrea, Schwab's, and Crescent Heights

And all the Jag could see were my six tail lights"

Robert Fields

I was thinking about my last post and it unfortunately makes it seem like there could be doubt about global warming and the threat it poses to the planet. These are the dangers of arguing with people like him in public forums. I was being facetious asking Mike to provide proof for his position (he can’t) and if he does a good enough job, I could be convinced he is right. He can’t do that, either. I am familiar with the chemistry and physics involved and there is nothing I’ve seen that makes me doubt the conclusions. Zero doubt. I can’t emphasize that enough.

The ones people should listen to are the researchers themselves. Not me and certainly not Mike. That’s why I post links to summaries, news reports, government agencies, and even the papers themselves. People can easily track back to the reasons these conclusions are what they are. And anyone interested should do that. Educate yourselves. Understand the discussions. Everyone is betting big on this so everyone ought to understand the bet.

There is no way Mike can convince me that global warming isn’t real and isn’t caused by our use of fossil fuels. His arguments here are pure trash. It is real. The science is settled. We know the answer. It’s proven every way known. Researchers got the lay of the land long ago and know they have to have everything air tight or the fossil fuel industry tries to discredit them. There is no question. None whatsoever. It’s real and dangerous and we either act or suffer the consequences.


Robert Fields

“Where we do not agree is that this is a disaster that will destroy the earth and life on it in anyone's lifetime, or even significantly affect the earth within our lifetimes. The data does not prove that extreme weather events are caused by CO2 or increased temps, there is no correlation, and thus no possible cause/effect couplet to show.”

Mike, you’re wrong yet again. The evidence is all around us and researchers have worked out how to apportion responsibility and the enhancement brought on by global warming. Again, fires as big as small states, tornado swarms, floods, droughts, etc. All are made worse by global warming and how much worse is able to be determined.

You’re either unable or unwilling to see and understand the literature but the links are now possible to see. It’s how researchers were able to see the global warming impact on crop yields. It is possible as much as you want to deny it.

As to warming jeopardizing life, you now allow the planet is warming. So how hot can the planet get and not cause widespread famine? Remember that this isn’t average temperature. Crops get exposed to more chaotic and extreme highs and lows over the full time they are in the field. It’s months of rolling the dice every day and just one bad day can ruin the crop. But you want to risk it. I don’t. If we wait too long to address this, it may be impossible to grow a crop to harvest. That’s what is at stake and time is running out.

And how old are you? That’s one of the most immature posts I’ve yet seen here. There’s lots of cars faster than a Jaguar. I didn’t buy it to race - street or otherwise. I sold it a long time ago. Your Corvette is faster than my current car too but I’ll pass you at gas stations over and over. And you know what else? I really don’t care. I’m just amazed someone your age would quote a song about drag racing so seriously and try to brag about who has a faster car like a teen with an inferiority complex. Grow up.

Mike Johnson

And Mr. Fields, who started the bragging about your car and dissing mine???? "I miss my red, black leather, chrome wires, convertible 1973 V12 XKE - way classier than a Corvette, btw." Hypocrite. And read this about hurricanes, as an example of how no data exists to prove they, like any other extreme weather event, are getting more frequent, stronger, nor more damaging...."Since 1878, about six to seven hurricanes have formed in the North Atlantic every year. Roughly two per year make landfall in the United States. The total number of hurricanes (particularly after being adjusted for improvements in observation methods) and the number reaching the United States do not indicate a clear overall trend since 1878 (see Figure 1)."

Robert Fields

Texas could make real hay in alternative energy. Lots of wind and sun over there which could lead to lots of skilled and semi-skilled jobs for citizens while helping to reduce global warming. As long as the pro-oil fear mongers are ignored it should be an easy call.

Oil is dirty. California is now looking at oily beaches, dead wildlife, and loss of tourism thanks to a new oil spill. And the planet is not only still heating, it’s heating faster. A new report out highlights yet another consequence of a heating planet - decreasing clouds are adding extra heat by decreasing the light being reflected back into space. It’s adding about 0.5W per square meter which taken over the surface of the earth exposed to the sun is significant for global warming. This is a “new” effect noticed recently as the planet has gotten warm enough to trigger it. It might be considered a tipping point.

So better jobs, cleaner environment, and helping to slow global warming sound like winning moves to me. If the voters would just stop listening to the fossil fuel industry, they might make better decisions. Of course the proponents of fossil fuels will do everything they can to keep that from happening and keep us heating. We can only do this for so long before the real consequences build in.

Welcome to the discussion.

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