Texas didn’t go blue, but former Vice President Joe Biden is now president-elect. So what does the coming Biden administration mean for Houston and for Texas? Initially, nothing much. The expectation is that at first Biden will be focused on broader issues, like dealing with Covid-19, the economic downturn, and passing a stimulus package, if the federal government hasn’t already passed a follow-up.
“I don’t think you see massive changes to start with,” UH political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus says.
The real question on the mind of most Houstonians, and most Texans, is how this will play out for the energy industry. Biden has spoken out against fracking, a move that likely spooked some Houston and Texas voters in the lead-up to Election Day. Houston, despite all claims to the contrary, is still very much an energy-centric city, as has been demonstrated by the latest oil downturn due to the pandemic, which has seen ExxonMobil* announce a round of layoffs, with about 1,700 of them right here in Houston.
But Rottinghaus advises to keep in mind that Biden has historically been a moderate. While he will likely push energy companies to make some adjustments and to start to deal with the environmental concerns that have been being raised about oil and gas with increasing frequency in recent years, the changes are probably not going to be a surprise to the companies impacted.
“The Biden Administration will probably engage in some pretty hard love for energy companies, requiring them to shift their focus in a way that those companies probably should have years ago, but have been reluctant to fully commit to,” Rottinghaus says. “However, my sense is that a lot of those companies have been moving in that direction already, quietly, because they see the value, and the money, frankly, in that diversity. They’ve wanted to move in that direction, but they need the political cover to get there.”
Meanwhile, some may be wondering what all of that “swing state” talk means for Texas in the long run. Well, the split ended up being more decisive than most analysts were expecting (this was a trend overall in the polls leading up to Election Day, as you’ve surely noticed by now.) Overall though, the fact that Texas even got any attention at all may mean more deep thinking about Texas in elections to come, though that is arguably a decent win for the Texas Dems.
“For a long time spending money in Texas was like buying fool’s gold,” Rottinghaus says. “It was shiny and didn’t have real value. But it’s not much of a stretch to say that Texas being in play at the presidential level is a real change to electoral map, and this could change how campaigns and resources are devoted to the state in the coming years.”
*A previous version of this story misspelled ExxonMobil. It has been corrected.