Why is Texas Shooting Energy Renewables in the Foot?

Texas is, and always has been, the undisputed king of U.S. energy.

Just consider these recent rankings from the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. Texas is:

  • #1 in oil and gas production
  • #1 in hydroelectric power generation
  • #1 in wind power generation
  • #3 in solar power generation (Solar lags behind California and Colorado primarily because Texas offers no financial incentives for solar as those states do.)

These rankings sound like good news for Texas. They suggest renewable, sustainable energy sources are helping prop up an economy where oil and gas has been reeling. They also sound like good news for the more than 85,000 out-of-work Texas oil and gas workers looking hopefully to the renewables industry – where wages often approach those of the oil patch.

Big Oil itself has long been interested in the possibilities of renewables. Since 2000, U.S.-based oil and gas companies invested roughly $9 billion in renewable technologies (wind, solar, biofuels) — roughly one-fifth of the total U.S. investment in renewables over the same period. In 2002, Shell began developing offshore platforms that are fully powered by solar and wind. Today, Chevron is the world’s largest private producer of geothermal power.

This past January, oilprice.com writer Michael McDonald was touting the brilliance and foresight of Texas legislators, saying:

“Despite Texas’ long history of success in the oil fields, the state has not rested on its laurels … requiring a certain amount of electricity come from renewable sources… and investing billions in developing the infrastructure to support that renewable portfolio.”

Also in January, the International Energy Agency told CNN, “The world is ‘drowning’ in oil, and weak demand has failed to match relentless pumping by the world’s biggest oil producers. With Iran planning to boost its production by as much as 1.5 million barrels a day by the end of 2016, the global oil glut will get even worse.”

In March, Melissa Miller, president of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Alliance, told The Dallas Morning News, “We are getting a lot of calls from the oil and gas sector trying to diversify.” With such a good head start in sustainable energy sources and the increasing interest in renewables, Texas should be sitting pretty.

Or not. Some in the Texas Legislature are lobbying to freeze the state’s Renewable Energy Credit program. This comes on the heels of the U.S. Senate’s vote in January to halt the federal tax credit for wind generation – a tax credit signed into law as part of President Bush’s Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

Austin, can we holster our pistols on this?
Shooting down incentives to expand Texas’ leadership in renewable energy sources makes no sense – we might as well shoot ourselves in the foot.

Texas wind energy is the source of one quarter of America’s total wind-power generation, and it has created more than 100,000 Texas jobs and is worth nearly $40 million a year. Texas solar initiatives have created nearly 10,000 jobs and generated nearly 1000 MW of solar energy. We need more solar generation capacity to meet Texas’ market demand, not less.

Keep the Texas Renewable Energy Credit Program in force. In Texas, all energy is good energy. And good business.

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Sources: Pembina Institute; OilPrice; CNN Money; The Dallas Morning News; Business Council for Sustainable Energy