The Houston Texans, the NFL team reppin’ the city that’s arguably the oil and gas capital of the world, says it wants to go green. So of course the team is working with an oil and gas giant to try to tackle climate change.
A subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corporation called 1PointFive announced a new agreement and sponsorship with the Houston Texans on Friday. 1PointFive is Occidental’s huge new initiative to pull planet-heating carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in an effort to limit climate change. It can then sell credits for each ton of CO2 it captures to other companies trying to offset their own climate pollution. Essentially, Occidental can now make money from both its oil and gas business — and from emissions generated by burning that oil and gas.
The Texans agreed to buy enough carbon credits from 1PointFive to offset future emissions from flights the team takes for away games during three regular seasons. “Through the sponsorship, 1PointFive will become the Texans’ Preferred Carbon Removal Partner,” according to a press release.
It’s expected to be one of the first large-scale carbon removal facilities of its kind and will be a big test for the relatively new technology
While the goal is for the team to cancel out the effects of its pollution, the Texans are actually funding a carbon removal project that’s still under construction. There’s no benefit to the environment just yet: the project broke ground in August 2022 and isn’t slated to come online until late 2024. It’s expected to be one of the first large-scale carbon removal facilities of its kind and will be a big test for the relatively new technology.
The carbon credits the Texans purchase are supposed to come from a “Direct Air Capture” (DAC) plant Occidental is building in the oil-rich Permian Basin in Texas. The plant is designed to filter CO2 out of the ambient air. There are fewer than 20 of these types of plants operational today; the first one came online in 2017. So far, all the world’s DAC plants still lack the capacity to suck up a significant amount of the CO2 building up in our atmosphere — capturing just 0.01 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Of course, everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas. Occidental’s Permian Basin Plant is expected to be able to capture up to 1 million metric tons of CO2 each year once it’s fully operational. And last year, Occidental also announced plans to build up to 30 more plants of the same size at Texas’ historic King Ranch.
There are a few different options for what to do with that carbon once it’s been captured. It could be stored in underground wells, which is probably the best hope for permanently sequestering it so that it doesn’t continue to heat up the planet. The captured CO2 could also be sold as a product, used to make fizzy drinks, for instance — but that only delays the greenhouse gas from escaping into the atmosphere. The biggest use the oil industry has had so far for captured carbon dioxide is, unsurprisingly, using it to produce more petroleum. The CO2 can be pumped into an oil field to push out hard-to-reach reserves in a process called enhanced oil recovery. Occidental has already used its forthcoming DAC plant in the Permian Basin to sell what it calls more environmentally friendly “net-zero oil.”
According to Occidental, the carbon credits the Texans purchase won’t be tied to new oil and gas production. It’s supposed to be stored permanently in saline reservoirs instead.
The Texans are far from the only brand turning to splashy new carbon removal tech to try to show that it cares about the future of our planet. Microsoft kicked off a trend in 2020 when it pledged to capture its historic and future emissions and invest in carbon removal technologies. Crypto firms even got into the game last year, with Ethereum software developers promising to counteract the blockchain’s historic emissions.
Unfortunately, investing in climate tech that’s still years away rather than tackling pollution right now wastes precious time. Carbon dioxide emissions are already supercharging weather-related disasters — from floods to droughts and heatwaves. And the world might only be about nine years away from breaching an important threshold — 1.5 degrees of global warming above the preindustrial era — that research shows would trigger a whole new level of climate catastrophe.
If the Texans want to tackle those kinds of problems connected to their emissions, the team could perhaps choose less polluting ways to travel than by air. It could make a game plan to prevent its pollution in the first place rather than making promises to cope with it down the line. For now, the biggest beneficiary of the Texans’ new carbon offset plan is Occidental, not the climate.