A Free-Market Energy Blog

Chris Tomlinson (Houston Chronicle) Confesses Conflict of Interest

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 2, 2023

“(Disclosure: My wife works for a private equity firm that invests in clean energy companies, and they have projects in Texas. But my interest in climate change and energy dates back 30 years, and like most spouses, my wife will tell you she has little influence over my opinions.)” – Tomlinson (below)

It is a start—but only a start. In a recent lobbyist-like editorial for the Houston Chronicle, the climate-religionist, bully-like, cut-the-beef Chris Tomlinson confessed to a conflict-of-interest. But the conflict is more than being married to a person that “works for a private equity firm that invests in clean energy companies”; his wife is a multi-millionaire rainmaker in wind and solar–the very two energies that Chris champions so completely and extensively.

His term “clean energy companies,” moreover, euphemizes the deep nature of wind and solar: government-enabled, cost-inflating, dilute, intermittent energies. And yes, wind and solar wounded the very grid that killed hundreds of Texans in February 2021–right after Chris himself said in one of his editorials:

“Fossil fuel-supporting Chicken Littles have done their best to spread fear of renewable energy, warning that relying on wind, solar and storage would lead to blackouts and economic devastation.”

The above disclosure, a half-truth at best, suggests more questions that Tomlinson needs to answer:

  • Has the Houston Chronicle or its parent, The Hearst Corporation, received grants from anti-fossil-fuel nonprofits or foundations to underwrite favorable articles about wind, solar, and the “energy transition”? If so, is this linked to your position as business editorialist and the paper’s pro-renewables’ reporting otherwise?
  • If opponents of the (government-enabled) wind/solar takeover of the Texas grid have held their views about climate change and the advantages of fossil fuels for 30 years (like you have held your opposite views), can they be forgiven for their “conflicts of interest”?
  • If the lobbyists and supporters of grid reliability are simply for a free market, and therefore favor government neutrality toward all energies, are they somehow bad actors or financially conflicted?
  • In regard to the rejection of “crony capitalism” that ends your editorial below, can you speak to the history of Ken Lay and Enron Corporation in lobbying for wind and solar in Texas politics and getting George W. Bush, Rick Perry, et al, on board? Which “cronies” got there first, in other words?
  • What is the opportunity cost of the $65 billion spent on Texas wind and solar to date, both in terms of grid reliability and also the non-energy social/private priorities that would be achieved in the absence of government enablement of renewables?

Here is the “confession” editorial of Chris Tomlinson in the lone hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle.

Republican plans will kneecap clean energyRegressive amendments would shut down many existing wind and solar facilities

Texas’ oil and gas empire has struck back, convincing state senators to launch a last-ditch effort to annihilate the clean energy industry and grant natural gas producers a near monopoly on generating electricity.

With Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s approval, state Sen. Charles Schwertner allowed Republican colleagues to add regressive amendments to a must-pass bill, amendments that would shut down many existing wind and solar facilities and make new clean energy projects nearly impossible.

The pro-climate change party’s use of the nuclear option surprised insiders who thought Schwertner and lawmakers in the Texas House had negotiated a reasonably pro-fossil fuel package of laws governing the electric grid. But the compromise did not satisfy oil and gas billionaires who give generously to the GOP.

The Texas Legislature only meets in regular session for 140 days every two years, so lawmakers and lobbyists have been in a mad rush since January to meet the May 28 deadline to pass new laws. Fossil fuel lobbyists and their allies started the session strong, convincing lawmakers to introduce dozens of bills to kneecap clean energy and guarantee Texas’ reliance on natural gas for generations.

Destroying the clean energy business would raise Texans’ electricity bills because wind and solar energy are the least expensive methods of generating electricity. They have saved customers $31.5 billion in wholesale electricity costs over the past 12 years, the Texas Consumers Association reported.

Comment: Really Chris. Can you look at total costs instead of marginal costs: add in transmission to get wind power from nowhere to somewhere, and include the taxes that Americans pay to subsidize Texas renewables (the Production Tax Credit for wind and Investment Tax Credit for solar).

(Disclosure: My wife works for a private equity firm that invests in clean energy companies, and they have projects in Texas. But my interest in climate change and energy dates back 30 years, and like most spouses, my wife will tell you she has little influence over my opinions.)

In the Senate, Patrick has used his role as presiding officer to push the fossil fuel industry’s agenda, and I’ve been writing about these bills since December. Many have passed out of the Senate on a party-line 19-12 vote, only to die in the Texas House….

Comment: Fossil fuel agenda? How about reliability agenda? Ratepayer agenda? Less government agenda? And when it comes to wind and solar blight, a pristine-area agenda.

… Schwertner wants the PUC to establish a minimum energy quota, called a “firming requirement,” for wind and solar generators, even if it’s still and dark outside. The PUC could force clean energy projects to pay for electricity from fossil fuel plants, potentially making those businesses unprofitable.

State Sen. Phil King tacked on his failed Senate Bill 1287. Today, transmission line companies spread the cost of connecting a generator to the grid across all customers’ electric bills. King’s amendment would require the PUC to establish a standard cost for connecting to the grid, and wind and solar generators that are far from existing transmission lines and require a more expensive connection would have to pay the difference.

The PUC, which the governor appoints, could set a low connection cost for fossil fuel generators locating near existing transmission lines. But that would saddle wind and solar projects with extraordinary costs because they must build where the wind is strongest and the sun brightest.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst offered an amendment that retained the crazy parts of her Senate Bill 624. Her measure would require the PUC to launch a punitive permitting process for any wind energy project within 10 miles or any solar project within five miles of a historic site, river, natural area, state park or wildlife management area.

Look at a map, and you’ll see that covers most of the state. Kolkhorst’s amendment would make new projects extremely expensive to permit and give pro-fossil fuel lobbyists an excellent chance to kill them.

The origin of these amendments is not hard to divine. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, backed by West Texas oil billionaires, is behind many of them. Lobbyists working for other billionaire oilmen have fought for them too.

Comment: Chris Tomlinson is a muckraker, isn’t he? And a renewables millionaire by marriage, no less.

I wrote in an earlier column that no bad idea is dead until lawmakers go home, but there is still a chance to stop the pro-climate change madness. A conference committee with an equal number of senators and House members will soon meet to hash out a compromise.

Comment: “… pro-climate change madness”? Time to question your religious beliefs about climate change, perhaps?

Intense negotiations are underway, with some strategic back-scratching and vote trading. But anyone who cares about the climate, electricity bills or clean air should be distraught at the crony capitalism.

Comment: Crony capitalism? Perhaps this is also the case in your own home, Chris.


In his May 31, 2023, editorial, “Republican state lawmakers deliver for big business and bigots.” Tomlinson continues his PR push, replete with muckraking and anger.

Over the last 140 days, I’ve focused on legislation to overhaul the electricity market that serves 95 percent of Texans. Following the hundreds of deaths during the 2021 blackouts, oil and gas lobbyists have tried to deceitfully shift the blame to clean energy to perpetuate their market dominance. [Dan] Patrick regurgitated the false premise that only new natural gas-fueled power plants can improve reliability. He conveniently ignored stacks of engineering reports proving that the natural gas system caused the blackouts and that new technologies are the cheapest solutions.

A powerful coalition of oil and gas executives, wealthy landowners and conservative firebrands — all donors to the Republican Party — worked to dethrone Texas as the national wind and solar energy leader. Moderate Republicans and Democrats killed the dumbest ideas and negotiated harm-reducing compromises….

Last-minute negotiations limited the damage to clean energy projects, including wind, solar and battery storage. The House killed an onerous and unprecedented permitting proposal and softened the blow of new fees for transmission lines. But new wind and solar projects will be forced to buy electricity from fossil fuel plants when supply gets tight and they are unable to produce because it is dark or still.

Patrick kept his promise to prevent renewable energy companies from receiving property tax breaks. House State Affairs Chairman Todd Hunter, a Corpus Christi Republican, drafted a corporate tax giveaway with the lieutenant governor in mind.

Comment: When wind and solar wound a once-stable grid, and the PUCT/ERCOT is in the central planning business, what do you expect? Ken Lay, George W. Bush, and Rick Perry were the early perpetrators in this chronology, where government intervention reigns supreme on each side of the power equation.


  1. Kevin M  

    When I know which political party a person belongs to before I know what place they were born, I know to move along. Nothing new here.


  2. Russell Seitz  

    Give us a break, Bob.

    Recent lobbyist-like Enron true believers & co-religionists owe a modicum of professional courtesy to their editorial colleagues at The Houston Chronicle


    • rbradley  

      Your comment is hard to understand, but if you are demoting me because of Enron, then you obviously have not read the books and articles I have written on that company.

      See here: http://www.politicalcapitalism.org, click on “Enron Corp: Political Capitalism in Action”. Enron was all-in with climate alarmism, wind, solar, and (uneconomic) efficiency.

      Chris Tomlinson declared his conflict of interest because of the heat I have put on him, a good thing, right?

      My ‘conflict’ is energy freedom and classical liberalism. What is wrong with being pro-consumer, pro-taxpayer, and energy realistic?


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