These clean-energy innovators are flipping stereotypes

America’s sustainable-energy revolution is happening in the places you’d least expect it—just don’t call it “green”

I have a quiz to start this week’s Motor Mouth, a seemingly easy quiz given the question: Which state in America generates more greener-than-thou totally-renewable wind energy than any other? Actually, let’s make this a two-parter, ’cause the answer is the same for both questions: What jurisdiction do you think is building wind turbines, solar farms, and battery storage capacity at a faster pace than any other? And, just so the question is even more clear and concise, I don’t mean this on a per-population-of-GDP basis, so that tiny little Maine or some sparsely-populated state like Montana squeaks in on a per-rata basis. Nope, I’m looking for the state that is committed to building more wind, solar, and battery power than any other — the king of renewables, as it were.

Is it California, that beacon of seemingly everything pure and natural? Or has truculently liberal Oregon hidden a whole bunch of windmills so far offshore no one noticed? Hell, maybe it’s an almost-lefty New Jersey. After all, they’re only two spots below Oregon on’s “10 Most Liberal States,” and if they can “disappear” Jimmy Hoffa for low these last 50 years, surely they can bury a terawatt or two of lithium-ion beneath their shores without anyone noticing.

Unfortunately, while those would all seem thoughtful, logical choices, they are not today’s Jeopardy-winning answer. In fact, the state with the fastest-growing clean energy network in the Union is…


Yes, that Texas. Gun-toting, energy-swilling, is-there-a-liberal-anywhere-in-this-state-outside-of-Austin Texas. Surprised? I sure was. Didn’t see that coming at all. Nonetheless, according to a study commissioned by the Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation coalition, not only do Texans generate more wind energy than any other U.S. state, but, in the second quarter of 2022, Texas had three times as many wind, solar, and battery projects on the go as California.

It has nothing to do, as I figure you’ve already guessed, with being green. In fact, Matt Welch, the head of that Conservative Texans group, says that, amongst his constituents actually building wind turbines and solar farms, the word “green” is despised, telling The Economist “When someone says we are embracing green energy, it’s like shoving an ice pick through our ears. We just say ‘clean energy.’

So, if it ain’t about saving the planet, what’s the motivation?

Well, Texas being an ultra-red state, it’ll come as no surprise that it’s good old-fashioned moolah. As in there’s a whole lot of money to be made producing green — oops, “clean” — electricity. Wind is now economically competitive with traditional — that should be read “CO2-spewing” — energy sources and, by most accounts, cheaper than the most egregious emitter of greenhouse gases, coal. According to The Economist, a Texas farmer can expect an average return of US$8 an acre for farming cattle and US$15 an acre for herding deer, but hundreds of dollars from a wind farm. That President Biden’s much-vilified — as much vilified in Texas as here in Canada — Inflation Reduction Act is offering tax incentives for wind turbines is only going to make the state’s conversion even more profitable.

Nor is this the only clean technology that Texans are the unlikely leaders in. According to InsideClimateNews.orgthe state is also on the road to being America’s largest source of green hydrogen. Cheap green hydrogen, no less.

Green hydrogen — produced from the electrolysis of water, and not a dirty by-product of petroleum production — is the ne plus ultra of zero-emissions energy, and one Texan project, a collaboration between Air Products and AES, hopes to be the country’s first large-scale producer of emissions-free hydrogen from water.

And it will all be made possible by Texas’ increasing domination of the cheap, renewable energy. In fact, AES’s North Texas facility expects to build no less than 900 megawatts of wind turbines and 500 megawatts of solar panels — that 1.4 gigawatts is more than the energy required to power the entire city of Austin, says ICN — to produce an expected 200,000 kilograms of hydrogen a day (enough to fill up 36,000 or so Toyota Mirais). That, too, is subsidized, to the tune of US$3 for each of those kilograms of clean hydrogen. And even if there is not much in the way of refuelling infrastructure for the lighter-than-air gas, clean hydrogen is the essential component in making the “net-zero” synthetic gasoline that Porsche is pioneering in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Here, too, Texas seems on the cutting edge, working on their own version of clean “net-zero” gasoline, only they call it “electro-fuel.” According to Clean Technicathere’s a new e-fuel plant being built in Matagora County by HIF Global; and another in Brazoria by a Texas firm called Denbury. Like the Porsche facility in Chile, these Texas firms will use the state’s abundant wind and solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then use carbon captured from the atmosphere to complete the hydrocarbon chain to become gasoline. And, although the cost for this net-zero — actually, almost net-zero — gasoline currently stands at US$4 for the equivalent of a litre of gas, Clean Technica says projections see costs being reduced to US$1.75/litre (equivalent) by 2030, not so very far off the current price of high-test.

The other odd thing about Texas’s clean-energy boom is that they are not the only Republican state jumping on this reduced-emissions bandwagon. Indeed, in the automotive industry at least, the deep south — Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee — stand to capitalize most on the Inflation Reduction Act’s incentivization of emissions reduction. They may not be hotbeds of climate-change activism, but they are amongst the largest benefactors of the IRA’s generous — as in hundreds of billions of dollars — subsidies. And they’ll soon be building hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles, not to mention the batteries that power them.

Just don’t call them green.


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