Energy Bill Good for Texas Wind

The U.S. House is debating a large energy bill this week. Texas is the nation's largest producer of wind energy and the bill is good news for windy states. But some lawmakers say it still falls short. Matt Laslo reports from Capitol Hill.

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Democrats are hailing the bill as an answer to global warming. It will force power companies to use more wind and solar energy, which has gotten some flak from Southern lawmakers whose states aren't good for wind farms. But Austin Republican Congressman Mike McCaul says that will never be a problem for Texas.

"You know we are always gonna have wind in Texas. There are a lot of wind farms not only in west but in south Texas near the coast so I think that is very, very promising."

The world's largest off shore wind farm is still under construction off Padre Island. When complete it will produce enough electricity to run 125,000 homes. Houston Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee says this bill is an important step for the nation.

"We know that we have to move into what I call twenty first century energy, and that means more energy, less pollution and more conservation."

The University of Houston is constructing a $24 million wind turbine research facility. If Congress forces all U.S. power plants to use more wind that research facility is going to attract a lot of attention. Jackson Lee says it is important for all of Texas.

"And I think it is very good for America to note that we may have the oil capitol of the world or nation, in Texas Houston, but we are a diverse energy state and we are ready to play on the energy stage in the twenty first century."

But Jackson Lee and McCaul don't think the current energy bill goes far enough. With the price of oil hitting record highs, they say the U.S. should be producing more oil at home. Congressman McCaul says fossil fuels are a key to solving U.S. energy problems.

I think we need a smart approach where we combine alternative energies with increasing oil production in this country rather than the middle east.

Most Democrats oppose increased drilling. They say it could harm the environment and would rather see funding increased for renewables. The House energy bill requires more efficient standards for buildings and appliances. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had wanted increased mileage standards for cars included, but pulled them because of opposition from auto state lawmakers.

For Houston Public Radio, I'm Matt Laslo on Capitol Hill.