Will Texas become ground zero for electric vehicles?

The push to clean up the world's energy sector to fight climate change has always presented an existential threat to oil and gas producing regions like Texas.

Now in the midst of a radical downsizing of oil and gas industry, companies in the burgeoning electric vehicle industry are making the case they can help mitigate the job losses caused not only by recent low oil prices but the longer term shift towards clean energy.

Already Tesla is constructing a gigafactory outside Austin, to produce not only electric cars but pickup trucks and batteries. The tech company is planning on employing 5,000 workers once the factory is up an running next year. And there could be plenty more jobs coming, according to a new report from the Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance, the state branch of a national trade group whose membership includes companies like Microsoft, the Italian energy firm Enel and the Swiss technology company Landis+Gyr.

The alliance claims there are already more than 7,000 Texans employed in the electric vehicle sector, with that number projected to climb to 13,000 by 2024. Driving that growth is an estimated 30,000 Texans working in industries with skill sets needed for the electric vehicle industry which have also, " lost jobs in recent years," the report reads.

“Texas has a significant opportunity to capitalize on a growing electric transportation sector to drive economic recovery, securing thousands of well-paying jobs for Texans,” said Suzanne Bertin, managing director at TAEBA.

But Texas would need to attract a lot of electric vehicle manufacturing jobs if it is to come close to matching the state's oil and gas industry.

Even after massive layoffs this year due to low oil prices, there are close to 150,000 oil and gas workers in Texas, according to the the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

And there is plenty of competition to attract electric vehicle manufacturers, not only in the United States but around the globe.

A collective of electric vehicle companies that includes Amazon, DHL and Uber put out a release Monday outlining what governments should do it they are to attract the electric vehicle industry to their region, including installing more charging stations and establishing support from power regulators.

“Businesses need supportive policies at all levels of government to ensure the EV transition takes hold at the scale and speed necessary to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis," said Alli Gold Roberts, director of state policy at Ceres, the non profit leading the Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance.

So far Texas politicians have apparently shown a willingness to do what it takes to bring electric vehicle companies to their state, winning the Tesla gigafactory over a long list of suitors.

Bertin, of the Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance, credited Governor Greg Abbott with fostering, " a strong pro-business environment, attracting a number of high-tech and Fortune 500 companies and their jobs to the Lone Star State."

“Given many of these companies seek cleaner fleets and that demand for  electric transportation options is growing across the U.S. and globally, we have an enormous opportunity to ensure Texas plays a big role in this innovative industry," she said.

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