Many Americans may be surprised to hear that former President George W. Bush addressed wind energy advocates at Big Wind’s annual conference in Dallas, Texas this week. After all, throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, his ties to the oil and gas industry were a subject of scrutiny; he was widely derided for not funneling enough government money into supporting expensive, unreliable, intermittent forms of energy, such as that generated from the wind.
As a former oil executive, President Bush faced critics who accused him of favoring increased drilling over investment of other energy sources. As a result, Bush is thought of as a pro-drilling, pro-oil and gas, anti-renewable President. A closer look at the facts, however, demonstrates that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, that the executives who rely on government subsidies and regulations to support the very profitable wind industry are celebrating the former president and Texas governor should come as no surprise at all.
Bush has a long history of supporting the massive subsidies and government regulations that make wind energy possible. In 1999, as the governor of Texas, Bush championed and signed legislation to enforce a renewable electricity mandate in his home state. As a result, Texas today leads the nation in wind generating capacity with 9,410 megawatts, over 25 percent of the total wind capacity in the U.S.[i] Texas generates almost five percent of its electricity from wind—and, despite the abundant natural resources available in the state—pays the 16th highest electricity rates in the nation.
As President, he reinstated or extended the production tax credit for wind and other renewable energy sources several times[ii], and generally included over $50 million per year for wind energy research and development in his annual budget requests.[iii] In FY 2007, for example, $690 million was estimated to have been spent on the production tax credit, for which wind was the major beneficiary.[iv] In fact, from 2004 through 2008, over one-third of the electricity capacity added in the US was from wind power[v], largely due to federal subsidies and other government tax breaks.
As for his purported preferential treatment toward oil and gas production, an IER analysis found that the Bush Administration offered fewer federal lands for lease throughout his presidency than any other—until President Obama surpassed this illustrious achievement in 2009.
As it turns out, it isn’t Big Oil that has all the politicians in their pocket; it’s Big Wind. And as a result? They’ve got plenty of taxpayer money in there too.
[ii] The following laws signed by President George W. Bush had reinstatements or extensions of the production tax credit for wind: Job Creation and Workers Assistance Act of 2002, The Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004, Tax Relief and health Care Act of 2006, Energy Policy Act of 2005, Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006. See Table 10 in http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/subsidy2/pdf/chap2.pdf
[iii] In FY 2007, the wind budget was $57.8 million, in FY 2008, the wind budget was $49.3 million, and in FY 2009, it was $52.5 million. See http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/subsidy2/pdf/chap3.pdf and http://www.windpowermonthly.com/news/login/962579/