The Texas Wind Rush: It started with an Unlikely Leader

Sep 17, 2013

Credit texastribune.org

George W Bush.  When you think of that name what comes to mind?

  • The Yale party boy of the late 1970s?
  • The son of a Yankee blueblood who made a ton of money on Texas oil?
  • The son of a politician?
  • A native of Midland?
  • A Texas oil baron?
  • A Texas governor?
  • President of the United States?
  • September 11?
  • Wind energy champion?

George W. was the spark that moved the political focus in Texas from fossil fuels to renewable, but he didn’t start out that way. 

He got serious about life after meeting, Laura, a librarian in 1977.  He was serious about her, and her was serious about oil.  He worked on an offshore rig, started his own oil and gas exploration business, and drilled oil wells.  Then came the oil collapse of the 1980s.  George H. was the vice president by that time, and W. had a front row seat of the administration to be blamed for killing the renewable-energy industry.

W. won the race for governor against Ann Richards in 1995.  He believed in free market and small government.  He was conservative.  He irritated green groups.  Air pollution was worse in Texas than almost anywhere in the Untied States.  A leading environmentalist said he "stood up for the polluters rather than the people" at every opportunity.

What changed inside this man is unclear, but one day in 1996, he told Pat Woods, his 33-year old Public Utility Commission chairman, "Oh, Pat, by the way, we like wind," Bush said. "We what?" Wood stuttered, dumbfounded. "Go get smart on wind," Bush replied.

The Texas Tribune is featuring two experts from Kate Galbraith and Asher Price’s book,  The Great Texas Wind Rush: How George Bush, Ann Richards and a Bunch of Tinkerers Helped the Oil and Gas State Win the Race to Wind Power.  This was a summary of the first excerpt.  You can find the second feature about how the public got behind the wind energy movement here.

 The Great Texas Wind Rush: How George Bush, Ann Richards and a Bunch of Tinkerers Helped the Oil and Gas State Win the Race to Wind Power, published by the University of Texas Press. It chronicles the run-up to the passage of Senate Bill 7, the massive 1999 electric deregulation bill signed by Gov. George W. Bush that, through a little-noticed renewable energy mandate, set Texas on course to become the top wind-power state.