Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America from the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels

By Jerry McNerney; Martin Cheek | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
The Power of Leadership

Many Americans might be surprised to learn that George Walker Bush started one of America’s most successful clean-and-green energy programs. In mid-1996, Texas Governor Bush had his monthly chat with Pat Wood, then the chairman of the state’s Public Utility Commission. They were discussing the expansion of the state’s power transmission grid. As Wood started to leave the governor’s office that day, Bush shouted out from his desk, “Pat, we like wind.” The astonished Wood responded with the question, “We what?” Bush answered, “You heard me. Go get smart on wind.”1

The Texas public was polled on its opinion of what was, at the time, an unconventional idea: harvesting energy from the breezes that swept across the plains. The commissioners discovered that people in a state famous for having such a prominent oil industry were indeed willing to pay a little extra on their electricity bill if it meant they would receive renewable energy. Under Bush’s orders, the utility commission began working with the energy companies and environmentalists to develop a statewide wind-energy program to be included in the 1999 industry restructuring law. That program, the Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard, gave the state’s power companies a deadline of the year 2009 to produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity from sustainable sources. After its adoption, individuals and companies sensing economic opportunity rushed to begin building wind turbines to meet the

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