The same kind of anti-wind movement that occurred in Oklahoma to bring an end to state-government subsidies is developing in the state of Texas.
Like Oklahoma, the oil and gas industry in Texas pooled its resources to wage a fight in the Texas legislature where, using a foundation, it hired 20 lobbyists to carry out the industry’s efforts, according to an investigation by the Austin American- Statesman.
Oklahoma Rep. Mark McBride, the Republican legislator from Moore who led the fight against subsidies for Oklahoma’s wind industry helped opponents in Texas too.
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, held in the de facto capital of the Texas fracking boom, was part of a much larger effort to slow the progress of wind energy in Texas. 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.