NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

WIND VAIN

November 7, 2007

Texas has long been the dirtiest state in the union; frequently tops in carbon emissions, in ozone pollution, in chemical spills.  But, in the last five years, and without much fanfare, Texas has become a clean-energy mecca of sorts, says the New Republic.

Consider:

  • The state has overtaken California in wind power and is on pace to build more turbines than much-hyped eco-nations like Denmark.
  • Investors in Texas have expressed interest in projects worth more than 24,000 megawatts in wind power -- more than is currently installed in Germany, a wind power leader.
  • Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens recently announced plans to invest as much as $6 billion to build the world's largest wind farm in Texas.
  • Last fall, Governor Rick Perry announced that Texas would spend millions on transmission lines in the next decade to encourage $10 billion in private wind-power investment.

The turning point for Texas's green ventures came in 1999, when a bill restructuring and partially deregulating the Texas electricity market was signed into law:

  • Within the bill, green groups negotiated a small provision requiring utilities and retailers to collectively generate 2,000 megawatts of new renewable power by 2009.
  • It was one of the first mandates of its kind and contained a trading mechanism that let utilities buy and sell renewable credits -- a sort of cap-and-trade system in reverse.
  • Texas utilities easily met the original renewable goals in half the allotted time, and, in 2005, the legislature passed an even bigger mandate.

However, the Lone Star State hasn't turned into Sweden, and its carbon emissions are still growing at a furious rate.  But, at the very least, the wind-power boom has made many business leaders and conservatives in Texas more sanguine about the changes necessary to wean the state off fossil fuels and help diversify its energy base. 

Source: Bradford Plumber, "Wind Vain," The New Republic, November 5, 2007.

 

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