May 17, 2009
A little less than a year ago, I recounted how Liz chose not to go with me to the Boswell High School homecoming festivities when I was a freshman in high school. Something about waiting for someone else to ask her out.
Writing the Watson Wire carries significant risk. I came into the kitchen the morning that Wire went out, and Liz, having already read it, immediately and rather emphatically asked, “When are you going to get over that?”
Well, officially, I was over it right at that moment. We’ve been married almost 30 years now, so I feel like I’ve pretty much conquered Liz’s reluctance to be seen with me in public (she even reads the Watson Wire, apparently).
But when you combine a very pretty girl with the romantic madness of a 14-year-old, you wind up with a formative experience. And the fact that Liz did, eventually, agree to date me remains a helpful lesson in patience and persistence.
Lord knows it paid off last week, when the Senate passed my RPS bill.
I’ve written before about this bill – Senate Bill 541. It creates what’s known as a Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, for non-wind sources of renewable energy.
In English, that means the state would set a goal for how much of our electricity comes from solar power and other sources that won’t emit greenhouse gases (we’re the country’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide). And in doing so, we’d save Texas families money.
The RPS has been like green-colored rocket fuel for the wind energy industry in Texas. Since we created the first one back in 2001, the state has shattered its goals for wind power generation, becoming the leading producer of it in the country.
With the rising profile of solar power, improving technology, and a boatload of federal carrots and sticks to encourage renewable energy, it’s the best possible time to take the next step and position Texas as a leader in the 21st Century energy industry.
The Public Utility Commission reported in January that wind energy is reducing the overall cost of electricity in Texas. Solar should do that even more, since it will be more readily available at times when energy is the most expensive – during the hottest part of the day. Plus, when considered in the context of federal taxes on greenhouse gas emissions, there’s a significant net savings by generating more renewable energy.
It’s sort of like paying the $19.99 for an oil change on your car every 3,000 miles. Sure, it costs you $19.99, but it creates a net savings as your car runs more efficiently and avoids additional repairs. Plus, you don’t have to buy a new car as soon because you took common-sense steps that addressed your future needs.
But despite this obvious logic and track record, S.B. 541 has been running quite a while.
I filed it in January. It was referred to committee until February. It was heard in March. Then it was voted out of committee at the end of last month.
And finally, last Monday, we got it up in the Senate, where it passed 24-7.
I feel great about that vote, but don’t let it fool you – I’ve never worked harder passing a bill.
A lot of people worked hard addressing the legitimate concerns and improvements that businesses, consumers and utilities brought up, getting folks to think creatively about how to encourage renewable energy, and helping people see how important these kinds of initiatives will be as the country gets more and more serious about fighting climate change.
So now the bill needs to rush through the House before the session wraps up in two weeks.
It’s not going to be easy – it never is when you only have a few months every two years to build consensus around big ideas. But the good news is that this is a really, really good idea, and it’s the right time for it.
Texas has a deserved, hard-won reputation as being the world capital for the energy industry. But that industry is changing, and if we want to keep leading, we have to seize opportunities the way we did decades ago to stay ahead of it.
We’ve never lacked for audacity in this state – particularly outside the Capitol – and we’ve never shied from change or from leadership. That’s a legacy that gives me a lot of hope.