President* Trump launched an epic attack on wind energy before a gathering of young conservatives in Florida last week, much to the surprise of, well, nobody. After all, the President’s longstanding antipathy toward all things wind is a known fact. However, this particular performance was so over-the-top that it set people to wondering if something in particular touched it off. Days later, tongues are still a-wagging. Hmmmm…could it have had something to do with Texas?
The Wind Leadership Award
Trump has often railed against wind turbines (for so many reasons!), but his list of complaints in the Florida speech was much longer than usual. He rambled from point to point, including this representative observation cited by The Guardian and others:
“You see all those [windmills]. They’re all different shades of color,” he said. “They’re like sort of white, but one is like an orange-white. It’s my favorite color, orange.”
So, what was the point?
Well, perhaps the idea was to take a veiled swipe at Texas Senator John Cornyn.
That might sound odd considering that Senator Cornyn is a fellow Republican, but Trump has been known to call out members of his own party on occasion.
In addition, Trump is known to be extremely sensitive to slights, especially in the category of being passed over for public recognition.
Now, consider the timing. Trump launched into his reverse-panegyric upon wind turbines on Saturday, December 21. Just two days before that, on December 19, Cornyn received the 2019 Wind Leadership Award from the leading Texas-based renewable energy firm Tri Global Energy.
Tri Global made sure everybody knew about it, too. The company put out a press release on prnewswire.com for worldwide distribution, along with a photo of Senator Cornyn flanked by two company reps.
So, did Trump use the Florida speech as an opportunity for jabbing at Cornyn for upstaging him? Maybe!
Laying Low On Wind Energy
Nah. On second thought, simple political expediency was most likely the driving factor behind the remarks.
As the 2020 election cycle approaches, the recently impeached President needs to keep his voters well in hand. That means hammering away at his signature issues with renewed vigor, regardless of how little sense they make in life as we know it (looking at you, light bulbs).
Trump also needs to keep Republican leadership on board with his messaging, and the anti-wind message has become a tougher sell as wind energy becomes a key economic driver in a growing number of communities, regardless of politics.
In that context, the Florida speech was an opportunity to warn every Republican office holder to toe the line on wind, regardless of whether or not Trump was aware of the Cornyn award.
Make That Two Wind Energy Awards!
If that was the intent, it didn’t work. On Monday December 23, just two days after the Florida speech, Tri Global Energy dropped another press release into the global news pot.
The new press release announced yet another 2019 Wind Leadership Award. This one went to Cornyn’s colleague, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Interestingly, the new press release did not include a photo of Senator Cruz. It came with something more relevant to the Florida speech: a high-res photo of — you guessed it — a wind turbine.
In another interesting twist, Cornyn did not get to have a quote in his press release, but Senator Cruz did. It reads like a direct rebuke to the Florida speech, though it was most likely prepared before the weekend (unless somebody was working overtime on December 22):
“I am honored to receive this award,” said Senator Cruz. “Texas leads the nation in both renewable and fossil energy production, and I’m proud to represent a state that understands the importance of utilizing all forms of our energy resources. Harnessing the power of wind in Texas has not only created jobs and helped grow our state’s economy, but it has broadened and diversified our energy production to support our nation’s energy independence for future generations.”
Elections Have Consequences
As for how the Florida speech could play out in the 2020 General Election, here’s where things get Texas-sized interesting.
Texas is an epicenter of the global fossil industry, but it also leads the nation in wind development. That means jobs, including plenty of manufacturing jobs and other hands-on work of the type that Trump purports to value.
Here’s the rundown from the American Wind Energy Association:
Texas ranks first in the country for both installed and under construction wind capacity, while supporting over 25,000 wind-related jobs. In fact, with over 27 gigawatts (GW) of wind in the state, only four countries have more wind power than Texas…The state is also home to at least 46 manufacturing facilities, including tower manufacturers Broadwind Towers and GRI Renewable Industries.
Now contrast that with Florida, where Trump delivered his remarks.
Like other states in the Southeast, Florida has sub-optimal wind resources. That is reflected in the tiny size of its wind industry.
According to AWEA, exactly zero wind turbines of any account currently operate in the state, and the same number is in the pipeline, too.
In short, it’s a cinch to trash talk wind turbines in a wind-poor state to keep your base voters motivated, but thousands of Texas voters with wind jobs might be listening in, too.
With A Friend Like This…
All of this makes life a little more difficult for Senators Cornyn and Cruz, who emerged as key defenders of the President when the impeachment hearings got under way last fall.
Some thanks! Senator Cornyn in particular is probably having a tough time explaining the President’s remarks to his friends in the Texas wind industry.
Tri Global Energy certainly seems to be a friend worth keeping for anyone interested in sustainable economic development in the state of Texas. The company launched in 2009, just as a major new transmission project was set to bust the state’s wind industry wide open, and it now bills itself as the leading wind developer in Texas.
Tri Global attributes its success to a holistic planning model that focuses on community benefits for new wind projects. The company is also a player in Texas’s rapidly growing solar industry, too boot.
CleanTechnica is reaching out to Tri Global for more insights into the Senator Cruz’s support for the Texas wind industry, so stay tuned for more on that.
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Photo (cropped): Courtesy of Tri Global via prnewswire.com: “From left to right: Henry Schopfer, Tri Global Energy; Senator John Cornyn (R-TX); and John Billingsley, Tri Global Energy. Senator Cornyn is the recipient of the 2019 Tri Global Energy Wind Leadership Award.”
Featured image credit: Zach Shahan – CleanTechnica.com