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Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), T. Boone Pickens, and the Enron Legacy of Windpower

Last December, Texas governor Rick Perry, speaking at a Houston fundraiser, sadly noted how President George W. Bush had lost his way in Washington, D.C. His good friend had compromised his principles and left the nation in a lurch, however unintentionally.

But then the governor launched into his Texas-is-great stump speech that included kudos to windpower, a new large industry (no) thanks to a legislative mandate requiring that Texas electricity retailers purchase qualifying renewable energy. (Wind is the most economical of the qualifiers.) The 1999 mandate, enacted with the crucial help of Enron lobbyists, was increased in 2002 with a powerful wind lobby at work. And so at  the point of a gun, Texas became the leading windpower state in the country, passing California along the way.

So it was not surprising that last Saturday night Gov. Perry handed T. Boone Pickens the 2009 Texan of the Year Award at a ceremony in New Braunfels, a town of 50,000 in the Texas Hill Country.

Perry called Pickens “a Texas legend of almost untold stature” with an energy plan of global significance. The governor explained:

The energy plan he laid out … could change the world forever. That’s the type of vision, that’s the type of innovation, that’s the type of leader that the world need’s right now.

President Obama (Boone is “a legendary entrepreneur“) or Carl Pope of the Sierra Club (“ To put it plainly, T. Boone Pickens is out to save America“) could not have said it better. John Holdren, too, would have approved Rick’s message.

But  T. Boone’s windpower “vision” is about a displaced, obsolete energy of the past, not an energy of the future. Take away the mandates and the the tax subsidies, and windpower will fall like a house of cards. And thinking ahead, just who will pay for the cost of  dismantling the wind turbines, someday?

So here we have a major businessman and a major Republican governor turned completely sideways on energy and free-market principles. Does capitalism need enemies?

Boone Pickens destroyed the company he build up–Mesa Petroleum–earlier in his career. He was extremely fortunate in his commodity price bets as an oil speculator, making billions of dollars, but his good luck seems to have run thin, as he has lost one or two billion dollars more recently.  PickensPlan I has been defeated by real world event, and PickensPlan II is on life support. Indeed, T. Boone is a strange and sad case of a capitalist against capitalism.

The virus of T. Boone Pickens that has been caught by Gov. Perry can be traced back to Enron, the company that was behind the Texas renewable mandate that set the table for T. Boone’s promiscuous  energy ideas. And it was then-governor George W. Bush who signed the bill that was so favorable to Enron in erms of renewable energy and power trading.

The egos of three men–Ken Lay, Pickens, and Perry–are intertwined when it comes to the siren song of windpower. All let their ambitions and egos get the best of them. They played political cards for short-term gain and fame.

Needless to say, a new kind of leader in corporate America and in government is needed. May a new generation arise.

12 comments

1 Andrew { 04.06.09 at 12:45 pm }

Did a bunch of posts just disappear?

2 Getting Real: The Oil Majors Move Away from Political Energy (Government-dependent wind, solar are not ready for prime time) — MasterResource { 04.09.09 at 10:14 am }

[...] As Texas proves, mandatory renewable-energy quotas are required. In 1999, that state enacted the Enron provision of an electricity restructuring bill that made Texas the nation’s leader in new windpower [...]

3 A Texas-Sized Energy Problem: Republicans, Democrats, and ‘Baptists & Bootleggers’ Running Wild in the Lone Star State (Obama sends his thanks) — MasterResource { 04.24.09 at 1:01 am }

[...] a statewide renewable-energy mandate. Enron’s lobbyists had the special interest of Enron Wind Company, which is now part of General Electric, in [...]

4 &#8220Repower Texas&#8221: Taxpayers, Ratepayers, Economic Energy Producers Beware! — MasterResource { 06.01.09 at 1:02 am }

[...] In Houston, they have arrived. The “Repower Texas” campaign is being fronted by a group of government-dependent political capitalists that see Big Green (as in money) in Texas’s renewable energy mandates. And how did this business underclass get started? It began with the Ken Lay/Enron renewables mandate for the Lone Star State in 1999, and the policy begun by then-governor George W. Bush is being continued today by governor Rick Perry. [...]

5 Texas’s "Solar Session" Fails to Enact Renewable Mandate #3 (a reality check for a federal RES?) — MasterResource { 06.09.09 at 1:02 am }

[...] effort by national environmental pressure groups and the solar industry. Has the decade-old Enron-launched artificial stimulus to uneconomic, unreliable renewables reached its apogee? Might existing and [...]

6 Jay Alt { 07.06.09 at 1:14 am }

Wind farms will save Texans money. The billions spent on new transmission lines will be more than offset by recurrent savings. Texas utility customers will not be disappointed (or ‘fooled’) at the prospect of skipping the fuel bill, displacing dirty energy and getting $3 billion annual savings.

http://www.aep.com/newsroom/newsreleases/?id=1360

The Chinese are building wind farms that’ll make the Pikens Project look like a hobby farm. Perhaps some new chinese leader will arise to fund misinformation campaigns, reverse progress and continue choking their population with coal fumes.

7 rbradley { 07.06.09 at 8:54 am }

Jay:

If wind saves electricity users money, then coercion in the form of Texas’ renewable mandate would not be necessary.

The reality is that wind costs more to produce and even more to transmit than conventional energies, and worst of all, it is intermittent. Just as you would not by a cheaper car with a trick motor (an engine that turned off and on by itself), even if the power was cheaper, consumers would still say no.

Recorded wind prices have been low and even negative, but that quirky story has been explained by Mike Giberson at Knowledge Problem. It appears that wind gets so much tax credit that the operators will take any price just to qualify kWh’s for Uncle Sam.

8 Who Was Ken Lay? (The Senate should know the industry father of U.S.-side cap-and-trade) — MasterResource { 07.07.09 at 6:48 am }

[...] establishing a statewide renewable-energy mandate. Enron’s lobbyists had the special interest of Enron Wind Company, which is now part of General Electric, in [...]

9 California’s Enron Energy, Climate Policy | Institute for Energy Research { 01.04.11 at 2:45 pm }

[...] state produces more non-hydro renewable energy than any state in the union except for Texas (which, per Enron, enacted a strict renewable-energy quota in [...]

10 Rick Perry’s Energy Plan is Good For Growth | ALL ALTERNATIVE ENERGY { 11.15.11 at 5:37 pm }

[...] The MasterResource blog has documented a purpose of Perry in a (artificial) Texas breeze appetite boom. In Oct 2006, Perry announced $10 billion in commitments from breeze developers to boost commissioned Texas breeze ability by about 7,000 megawatts. And to get it, he committed a state to a $5 billion, and now $7 billion, delivery project.  [...]

11 What the Wind Industry doesn’t want you to know!!!!………..it’s “Enron Roots”! « The Big Green Lie { 01.16.12 at 2:08 pm }

[...] Successfully lobbying Texas politicians to enact the most strict renewable mandate in the country in 1999. [...]

12 “Renewable Energy: Not Cheap, Not ‘Green’” Turns 15 | Quixotes Last Stand { 08.29.12 at 10:02 pm }

[...] policies of Texas governor George W. Bush (and what would be the policies of his successor, Rick Perry). For Bradley, there was indeed a problem in [...]

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