Is Wind Catching Up to Oil in Texas?

Ask an Americans which source of energy he or she associates with Texas, and the answer almost certainly would be oil. With good reason. But, meanwhile, the Lone Star State is far and away the top producer of wind energy.

Wind power has been such a success that on October 22, at 12:30 a.m., the Texas electric grid hit a new record for wind power use, with nearly 37 percent of demand met by wind power.

On average, wind is now providing nine percent of the state’s electricity.

Nationally, we are generating enough wind energy to power 18 million homes, and the most recent international ranking (2013) puts the United States first, China second, and Spain third in total output.

The wind sector has supported an average of more than 73,000 jobs and drawn over $17 billion a year in private investment over the last five years. More than 500 factories in 43 states manufacture parts for the wind industry.

Growing reliance on wind power is one way that we can limit carbon consumption and thus limit climate change. But to meet goals recommended by scientists, we must accelerate the growth rate for renewable energy. The fastest, most effective way to do that is to enact a carbon fee. That fee would enable us to create a price for carbon that includes all the costs of burning carbon, such as health problems caused by air pollution. As carbon-based energy sources become more expensive, we’ll use less of them.

But no one expects Congress to give us a carbon fee for Christmas. At the moment, the climate change focus on Capitol Hill is on blocking the Clean Power Plan.

We think we have an alternative that can pass Congress. We have spent a good part of this year visiting more than 175 congressional offices, mostly Republican, to test an idea that we feel could attract bipartisan support. We propose enactment of a revenue-neutral carbon fee with half the proceeds going toward a reduction in our highest-in-the-industrialized-world corporate tax rate (from 35 to 25 percent) and half to citizens with low or moderate incomes. The general response: If businesses back home get on board, these members of Congress would be receptive. Many of them particularly liked the idea that the deal would suspend the EPA’s plan for perhaps seven years to see if the carbon fee met emissions targets more quickly.

Every day more businesses are announcing plans to reduce carbon emissions, and a September survey by three GOP pollsters found that 56 percent of Republican voters believe that the climate is changing. Members of Congress who have felt comfortable not acting to counter climate change are running out of time to move over to the starting line. It’s time for political realism: If you don’t cotton to EPA’s plan, take a good look at a carbon fee.

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson supports a revenue-neutral carbon fee. Ca International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. “It is just the right moment to introduce carbon taxes,” Lagarde said. "I know that a lot of people would rather do emissions trading systems, but we believe that carbon taxation would be a lot better."