In Texas, Fossil Barons Fighting Wind

April 11, 2019

Austin American Statesman:

Last fall, Keith Uhles, an engineer with the oil and gas firm CrownRock Minerals, invited other young West Texas professionals to join him at a popular Midland Mexican restaurant for a conversation about renewable energy subsidies.
The event promised to explore ways to reduce the “public costs and restore transparency and meaningful public participation” to renewable energy policy, according to the invitation. It was organized by the Midland Liberty Leadership Council — Uhles is the chairman — an arm of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the conservative, influential Austin-based policy institute. 
The dinner, in the de facto capital of the Texas fracking boom, was part of a much larger effort to slow the progress of wind energy. An American-Statesman investigation has found that oil and gas, and other fossil fuel, interests, working in league with the nonprofit foundation, are funding an effort at the Capitol to stamp out state subsidies, pegged at more than $1 billion per year, that benefit renewable energy.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, with annual revenue approaching $20 million, launched a barnstorming effort over the past year and recently has produced videos to criticize the renewable energy industry. This legislative session, according to Texas Ethics Commission filings, the foundation has employed more than 20 of its staffers as lobbyists, paying them as much as $395,000, to target renewable energy subsidies, among a range of bills that align with the group’s small government focus.
The initiative comes as wind energy has transformed over the last few decades from a boutique alternative energy source to a full-blown, big-business competitor to fossil fuels. At stake is the lucrative and volatile fuels market, especially for electrical power generation.

The Uhles event was held during a full-court press by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and reflects its deep ties with fossil fuels. The CEO of CrownRock is Tim Dunn, an oil and gas man who is vice chairman of the foundation’s board and who has long bank-rolled the scorched-earth conservative political action committee Empower Texans and some of the most conservative lawmakers at the Capitol.
The previous evening, Sept. 19, the organization hosted an event in Midland called “Renewable Energy Subsidies: A Bad Deal for Texas.” Among the panelists were Mark McBride, a Republican state representative from Oklahoma, who led the legislative fight there against renewable energy subsidies — and whose chief campaign patron has been Harold Hamm, an Oklahoma oil and gas billionaire who helped bankroll a group called the Windfall Coalition, which campaigns against wind energy incentives and proposed wind farms straddling Oklahoma and Texas.
“He’s looking at his billfold every morning, thinking, ‘They’re taking this much money out of my pocket every day,’” McBride told the Statesman about Hamm.
At roughly the same time, other prominent industrial players were working with the foundation to boost the anti-renewable energy effort in Texas.
Several people involved in lobbying at the Capitol said the chief lobbyist at Koch Industries, which operates oil refineries in Texas and has opposed wind energy, brokered a meeting at the Texas Public Policy Foundation with manufacturers, chemical companies and other oil and gas operators to discuss corporate subsidies.
The Charles G. Koch Foundation, whose mission is “to advance social progress and well-being through the study and advancement of economic freedom,” contributed $1.9 million to the Texas Public Policy Foundation in 2017, according to IRS records filed by the Koch Foundation.
Related Koch family foundations gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the foundation for research and education over the last 15 years.

North American Wind Power:

U.S. wind power now supports 114,000 American jobs, over 500 domestic factories, and more than $1 billion per year in revenue for states and communities that host wind farms, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
AWEA’s newly released “U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, Year Ending 2018” shows that the industry saw an 8% growth in capacity last year.
Wind power is big business for Texas in particular, which ranked first for installed wind power capacity and wind jobs in 2018. Further, in Texas and across the nation, Fortune 500 brands and utilities alike purchased a record amount of new wind energy through long-term contracts.

“Wind power’s record-breaking year shows our industry is leading the way to a cleaner, stronger, 21st-century U.S. economy,” says Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “America’s least expensive source of new electricity generation is also clean and inexhaustible, which gives our economy an edge in the global marketplace. We’re proud to report the wind industry employs a record number of Americans, supports a robust domestic manufacturing sector with over 500 factories, and contributes over a billion dollars a year to states and rural communities.”
There are wind farms or factories supplying the industry in all 50 states, but no state exemplifies these trends better than Texas, says AWEA. The Lone Star State is home to roughly a quarter of all U.S. wind power capacity. If Texas were a country, it would rank fifth in the world for wind power capacity, with nearly 25 GW installed. It also had nearly 7 GW of additional wind projects under construction or in advanced development at the end of 2018.
Texas’ leadership in wind capacity means it also leads in wind industry jobs and investment, the report notes. Texas is the top state for direct and indirect wind industry jobs, with more than 25,000 Texans working in the industry. Wind farms in Texas have drawn over $46 billion in total capital investment to date and pay approximately $307 million each year in landowner payments, plus state and local taxes, according to AWEA’s findings.
Kiernan adds, “Texas has a long and storied history of energy production, and as today’s report demonstrates, wind is an important part of the state’s energy success story. In many ways, the Texas wind story is the story of American wind power.”

6 Responses to “In Texas, Fossil Barons Fighting Wind”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Hard to press “Like” here. Tanks for all your info, Peter.

  2. Vicki Stephens Byars Says:

    Peter, we shouldn’t have to subsidize energy generation. Let the market decide and innovators work to compete. Nothing wrong with alternative energy, it just needs to be economical on its own.

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    The Charles G. Koch Foundation, whose mission is “to advance social progress and well-being through the study and advancement of economic freedom,”…

    Gag me with a shovel.

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    The Citizens United decision is perhaps the most damaging decision any Supreme Court has ever made, certainly in “modern” times. It has allowed the corporations and the rich to BUY government at all levels.particularly at the state and federal, and is allowing the plutoligarchy to dismantle American institutions at an alarming rate. We’re losing ground, folks.

    PS I have been stamping “STAMP MONEY OUT OF POLITICS” on my paper money for a couple of years now, as have may others. Also have a CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE—END CITIZENS UNITED sticker on both of my vehicles. Don’t know if it’s helping much.

  5. dumboldguy Says:

    Texas may be the leader in wind, but it’s also a leader in fossil fuels, so it’s a natural battleground for the plutoligarchs—-it must make them crazy to see all those windmills on THEIR home territory, and if they can slow wind down there, it will help the fight everywhere else. Look at the TX numbers—-all the hype we see on TX WIND ignores the reality of TX contributions to CO2 both there in TX and everywhere else in the USA and world.

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