January 8th, 2009

I’ve been asked one question again and again the past few days:

How’s the new Speaker going to be on conservation issues?

I haven’t talked to the Speaker-apparent, Rep. Joe Straus of San Antonio, but I’ve talked to other folks, and I’ve been reading up. There was an interview he gave to Texas Monthly last year that is illustrative. Read the whole thing here, and here’s an excerpt:

Q: You chair the Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Efficiency. Do you believe Texas has the potential to be a leader in the production of alternative energies?

A: In many respects, Texas already is a leader in the production of renewable energy. We are the national leader in wind energy, and we’re making strides in solar power and biomass. I authored and passed a bill that enhances the state’s existing energy efficiency programs. It requires all electric providers to participate in efficiency programs, adds new incentives for the sale of energy efficient products, enables customers to better manage their own electric consumption, and updates public building energy codes in order to increase conservation.
I think we are getting to the point where renewable energy represents such a promising market that the large energy companies no longer view it as a small research investment, but a serious source of energy that will help power the energy economy. I see the day fast arriving when alternative energy is a mainstream source to power Texans’ lives.

This passes the sniff test: I think Joe Straus really cares about building a green economy in Texas, and continuing our state’s historical position as the leading energy state. Contrast Rep. Straus’s lucid, sensible remarks above with those of Rep. Tony Goolsby, who tried to sound like he was turning green, but couldn’t quite sound convincing. Here’s Goolsby in an interview with KERA radio in Dallas from October talking about his commitment to sound conservation policy on air quality:

“I know we’re working hard with the Texas air quality. Power plants that are being built are going to add on to the nuclear which helps the fresh clean air. The new coal plants are not going to be putting out as much carbon monoxide.”

Voters sent Goolsby back home to Dallas on Election Day, selecting Carol Kent instead. And Texas House members are certain to elevate Rep. Straus to Speaker on Tuesday. There’s a lesson there:

Texas voters want politicians of every stripe to do something to clean up our air quality, generate cleaner power… and improve the economy while they’re at it.

Leaders who understand that get elected. Those who don’t, increasingly, get to give up the gavel.

The Texas League of Conservation Voters looks forward to working with Rep. Straus as Speaker, and have high hopes that his appointments to key committees will be folks we can work with to pass good laws for “the fresh clean air.”