When the news that President Elect Donald Trump had picked former Texas Governor Rick Perry as secretary of energy, some in the media had the obvious reaction. Texas means oil and gas, which means that under Trump the United States is going to turn away from the #Renewable Energy enthusiasms that have featured Obama policy. Plus, Perry once proposed eliminating the Energy Department altogether during his first run for the president when he made the so-called “oops” gaffe when he forgot the entire list of departments he would eliminate. In any case, the truth about Perry and energy is a little more complicated than one might think.
To be sure, oil and gas is a major industry in Texas, especially now that the fracking boom has made the country awash with fossil fuels. But during his long term as governor, Perry also presided over an explosion in wind power, according to Green Tech Media.
When Perry assumed office in 2001, the wind industry did not exist in the state of Texas. Currently Texas has 18,000 megawatts of wind capability installed with another 5,000 under construction.
Texans have come to regard the wind as a resource, especially in West Texas and the Panhandle, where prevailing winds are strong and steady. The key to developing wind power has been the construction of $7 billion in transmission lines that take the electricity from wind farms to the west and north to urban centers in Central and East Texas. The Lone Star State is the nation’s leader in wind energy,
While Texas has come late to developing solar energy, it is now playing catchup. 635 megawatts of solar is now online in the Lone Star State, more than double what it was a year before, Growth in electricity from the sun is expected to continue at a brisk pace.
The key to understanding the attitude of Texans to energy is in its business culture. Texans do not have romantic notions about “green” vs “dirty” energy sources. They believe in what works and have found a way to make wind and now solar work in a business environment. Perry will likely bring that approach to the Energy Department.