October 7, 2004

The wind in Texas

To the editor, The New Republic:

Martin Peretz ("Evil Lesser," October 11) cites George W. Bush's promotion of "one of the largest and most productive programs of wind farms in the country," which "actually diminishes our dependency on Middle Eastern oil."

The wind power projects in Texas are indeed large and heavily subsidized (Bush just renewed their major tax break), second in capacity to California. Yet the expanses of giant windmills generated only 0.85% of the state's total electricity in 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The amount actually used is much less, because wind speed (their fuel) rarely corresponds with consumer demand.

Almost all of Texas's electricity is generated from natural gas and coal. Oil generates only 0.4%. Wind power has therefore diminished their dependency on oil for electricity by about 3 one-thousandths of a percent. Electricity, of course, represents only a fraction of total energy use (for transport, heat, etc.), which wind power doesn't affect at all.