A better use for corn and soybeans
Thomas Friedman’s column this morning had a surprising revelation:
Time for another news quiz: Which American state produces more wind-generated electricity than any other? Answer: Texas. Next question — this one you’ll never get: Which politician launched the Texas wind industry? Answer: Former Gov., now President, George W. Bush.
Yes, there are many things that baffle me about President Bush, but none more than how the same man who initiated one of the most effective renewable energy programs in America, has presided over an administration that for six years has dragged its feet on alternative energy, used its regulatory powers to weaken efficiency standards for major appliances and stuck its head in the sand on global warming.
Friedman went to Texas to find out how Bush got the state going on producing electricity from wind when he was governor.
I came down to West Texas, the Saudi Arabia of wind, to find out how it all happened. Pat Wood, a friend of the president, was chairman of Texas’s Public Utility Commission when the push for wind energy started.
“At the end of a meeting on transmission policy in mid-1996,” he recalled, “I was on my way out the door of the governor’s office, when Governor Bush said to me, ‘Pat, we like wind.’ He was at his desk. I said, ‘We what?’ He said: ‘You heard me. Go get smart on wind.’ ”
Friedman goes on to describe how at former governor’s behest the Lone Star State in 2005 met its goal of producing 2000 megawatts from wind power and how the legislature has now raised the goal to 5000 megawatts.
He then makes the case that President Bush could perhaps partially salvage his legacy if he devoted a good part of the rest of his term to leading the charge toward energy independence.
I don’t know if it would salvage his legacy or not, but I’m all for it. We could put wind farms all over heck and gone and capture energy that’s there free for the taking. I know that environmentalists will whine that these windmills injure and kill birds in flight, but I don’t buy it. I’ve been by windfarms a number of times when the wind was really howling, and the blades on the things are turning, but not very fast. For anyone who hasn’t seen one of these monster windmills at work, the blades don’t turn like they do on a fan–they turn sloooowly. Any bird that would fly into one needs to be removed from the gene pool anyway.
Also, we could convert the soybeans and corn that we’re now using to corrupt our metabolic systems into biodiesel to run our cars and trucks. Most diesel cars today can, with a minor modification, run on biodiesel, so it wouldn’t be a great stretch to start making cars that run on it coming out of the plant. With some federal tax incentives and some real leadership from the top–which, unless I’m wrong, is where leadership is supposed to come from–we could replace our dependence on foreign oil in relatively short order. If we could bring this independence about it would go a long way to solve the problems in the Middle East. And if we could make corn and soybeans too valuable to eat, we could solve many of our own metabolic problems, which, if left unchecked, are going to cause a huge hickey on the national health care budget before too long.
Talk about a win-win.