Texas shows us by example | Editorial
So what kind of liberal environmentalist is pushing this green energy agenda forward (although in rural Texas it might be more of a sagebrush environmentalist)? None at all, in fact. The writer was John Davis, who for 16 years was a Republican state lawmaker in Texas. And a damn conservative too. It earned an A rating from the National Rifle Association, once a favorable 84% rating from the Eagle Forum by Phyliss Schlafy. He voted for the return of corporal punishment to schools. He voted for bills that LGBT organizations viewed as hostile. He voted in favor of drug testing for recipients of unemployment benefits. The point is, he sounds like a pretty die-hard conservative, doesn’t he? Yet he has also earned the nickname “the energy breeder” for his support for renewable energy.
And that is a lesson for rural Virginia – and the conservative politicians who represent it. The point is not that we should be completely dependent on wind power; some of these turbines froze sadly during the recent polar vortex (just like conventional fossil fuel power plants). Instead, the point is, you can be both a conservative and an advocate for renewables. Most importantly, renewable energy can be a way to help build a new economy in rural communities.
Davis sits on the advisory board of a group called Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation. He recently produced a report that documented just how pumping renewable energy facilities are in rural Texas. Oldham County in the Texas Panhandle has a history as an oil and gas county. “At best, oil and gas revenues represent about 20% of Oldham Counties’ operating budget, but times are not always the best and these payments are hard to count,” the report said. In fact, over the past decade, oil and gas revenues have fallen by 80-90%. It looks a lot like the counties of The coalfields of southwestern Virginia this saw their income from starting coal taxes fall along with coal production. However, now six wind farms are located in Oldham County – and they account for 50% of the county’s tax revenue. In other words, wind farms now account for 2.5 times more revenue than oil and gas. “Because of the deals that school districts are able to make with wind farms, three of the county’s four school districts have been able to hold bond elections and build new facilities, which would never have happened without the coming of the wind industry in town. The report says. “Three quarters of the cost of new school facilities can be attributed directly to the wind industry. Plus – and this is something that should really grab the Conservatives’ attention – with all the wind farm tax revenues, Oldham County has been able to lower the county’s property tax rate. That’s right – more services and lower taxes, all at the same time, thanks to the wind.