Windpower Woodstock: George W. Bush, Limitless Swag & A Burgeoning Success Story
Windmills in Texas -- as romantic-looking as in Holland
We used to love when oxymoronic news broke because a former editor would always exclaim, "Dogs are sleeping with cats! Film at 11!"
Canines definitely hooked up with felines at Windpower 2010 this week in Dallas, where former President George W. Bush re-wrote his own personal history in the keynote speech and professed allegiance to power generation from wind. (If he hadn't it no doubt would have been an even bigger story, with thousands of people storming the stage at the Dallas Convention Center.) So given the nature of the event, it's a good thing he urged less dependence on dinosaur droppings.
Predictably, Bush touted the resource as critical to our nation's energy security, then forgot his audience and predicted that his grandchildren would someday drive electric cars...drive them like the wind, no doubt.
But Bush likes to fancy himself a Texan, so what more positive way than to glom on to one of Texas's success stories? The Lone Star State continues to hold the nation's record of the greatest amount of wind-powered generation capacity. While our fair state may lag in other categories, such as education, you gotta admit we've got a pretty savvy way with energy.
And we even pretty much beat the country in spurring new power-transmission development so that the lines linking the wind created way out in the empty parts of Texas can take the electrons into the big cities. Warren Buffet went in on one of the bigger projects.
Development here continues to grow: Paris, France-based Alstom announced it plans to open a wind-turbine assembly facility in Amarillo next summer. (Have you seen those turbine blades being trucked down the highway, one by one? The old chestnut "football stadium-sized" comes to mind.)
Windpower 2010, summed aptly by The New York Times as "Woodstock meets capitalism," drew some 20,000, about 33 percent more than it did two years ago in Houston. (National politics seem to be a bit more favorable to the resource than they were then.) The Dallas crowd was a wild mix: wind developers who hope to sell to utilities that are bound to new standards for using renewable energy; Wall Streeters looking for action; cowboy types who repair rotors and troubleshoot while hundreds of feet in the air; governmental analysts; vendors of every stripe.
And the swag in the exhibit halls! We saw hard hats; gardening gloves; mystic 8 balls; tote bags - all stuff made no doubt in China by coal-fueled factories. One North Texas-based company gave away pills in little plastic trucks. We didn't recognize what they were, and failed to bring our Physicians' Desk Reference to Windpower, so had to ask. We learned they were aspirin, which are a painkiller of sorts that humans took in the mid-20th century to ease headaches. That info sent us scurrying to the next of the 1,400 booths to look for spats (Wiki that term).
But that's okay; wind itself dates back pretty far - we hear it goes almost to the beginning of time, 6,000 years ago. (One thing we never understood was the contradiction oil folks who are also religious fundamentalists have to face every time they consider where oil came from.)
But we digress. One thing event planners usually hope for is great weather. But nothing could have been more serendipitous than this: Just as the conference opened, the state of Texas - the country's largest wind-generating state, remember - saw its own record for wind production.
On May 23, the hour ending 1700 (oh yeah, it's all in military time), nearly 6,800 megawatts were produced, serving about 15 percent of the region's electricity needs for that hour.