News broke Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump will tap former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Energy Department, a move that has the mainstream media recalling the 2011 Republican presidential debate where Perry blanked on naming Energy as a department he would eliminate.
Sure, there is a bit of irony there, and the mainstream media likes to focus on this irony. However, there is something crucial many media pundits are missing: Perry's legacy as Texas governor was helping grow the Lone Star State's energy sector -- not just fossil fuels, but renewable energy.
The Texas Tribune reported in December 2014 that one of the lasting, physical marks Perry had on the state, could be seen in the acres upon acres of wind turbines that rise high over windy West Texas.
Here's a fun fact: Today, Texas generates more wind energy than any other state in the U.S. Not California, not Oregon, not any of the so-called champions for renewable energy... Texas. In fact, it takes the next three states combined to match Texas' wind power.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Texas' wind energy capacity has grown to 18,500 megawatts and there is over 5,000 megawatts of capacity under construction. Wind power in Texas has created over 24,000 jobs and generates 12.14 percent of all in-state energy generation (that’s about 4.1 million homes).
Perry had a major impact on this exponential growth. In 2005, he signed bipartisan legislation to increase Texas' renewable-energy capacity to over 5,800 megawatts by 2015. Perry also backed deals that would help the state shatter this goal.
“His legacy on the fossil side of things is very sound, but on the wind side, he’s done tremendous things to move the state forward,” Jeff Clark, executive director of the Austin-based Wind Coalition, told the Tribune. “Under Rick Perry, wind in Texas has moved from alternative energy to being a mainstream component of our power supply.”
Trump’s administration has set its sights on Saudi Arabia, promising to reduce our dependency on the Middle East and other foreign sources for oil. OPEC has begun trimming its oil output, raising the price of oil while also opening the door once again for a boon in domestic oil production.
America’s fossil fuel needs will continue to grow for years to come. There is no way to wane the country’s overwhelming dependence on it in the short term.
However, many Americans also desire to see greater renewable energy capacity. Donald Trump has met with prominent green job advocates, most notably Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, who discussed the threat of climate change and the importance of increasing jobs in renewable energy.
Perhaps Trump is embracing a Texan energy policy that asks, why can’t we have an approach that understands our fossil fuel needs while encouraging growth in renewable energy and green jobs in the private sector?