June 11th, 2014
U.S. Secretary of Energy; former Governor of Texas
Some might see a room full of San Francisco activists as enemy territory for a Texas conservative. But at a recent Commonwealth Club event, Texas Governor Rick Perry welcomed the challenge, airing his views on hot-button issues from fracking to Obamacare to immigration. The main topic for the evening was one in which both states are deeply invested – energy production.
Perry acknowledged the political divide right from the start. “There are very different fiscal and regulatory policies that we deal with,” he admitted, “and I don’t come here to criticize the California model.” Instead, he said, his talk would focus on his home state’s approach to energy production, “and then I’ll let you come to your conclusion about which one of those economic models works best.”
After a few well-received compliments on California’s weather, its creative culture and its wine, Governor Perry launched into what he considers one of the country’s most important issues: energy independence. Both Republicans and Democrats would agree, he believes, that America must lessen its dependence on foreign oil.
Perry sees both economic and political reasons for this. “It is not in our national or our economic interest to place our fate in the hands of unstable governments …who could blockade energy resources and cripple the world’s economy at any given time.” And development of localized resources, such as the Keystone Pipeline, means jobs that could pull Americans out of the recession.
Perry indulged in some justifiable boasting about his state’s record of job creation, much of which he credits to a boom in private sector energy production. He says the rest of the country should follow suit to get Americans back on the job. “The fastest way to rev up the economy is for America to produce all forms of energy,” he says. "Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created if we unleash energy exploration across this country. Energy innovation, it’s the quickest way to make our anemic economy very powerful.”
And we’re not just talking oil – the energy boom in his state includes less traditional sources as well. Thanks to deregulation and tax subsidies, Texas has become a business-friendly home for “all-of-the-above” energy development, including natural gas, nuclear, solar, hydro-electric and wind power.
“Today, the nation’s leading developer of wind energy is not one of those progressive states on the East Coast or the West Coast,” says Perry. “The number one wind energy producing state in the nation is along the Gulf Coast. It’s in Texas.”
Perry believes America – particularly California and Texas – should continue to lead the charge as the world’s chief innovators in energy production. And while the governor acknowledged he’s gotten “a bit of a rap” for trying to lure California businesses to his home state, he says no one should fear a little healthy competition.
“Texas actively competes with California for technology jobs, but we also compete in practically every sector of the economy, and I happen to think that that competition is really healthy,” says Perry. “When you get down to it, America needs both California and Texas to be incredibly competitive, incredibly successful. We need that to pull us out of this economy.”
It’s that Texas-style spirit of innovation, competition, and free-market capitalism, Perry maintains, that could solve the world’s energy problems.
“We must preserve, we must protect that, if we’re going to find the solutions to these issues. We have always been about coming up with innovation, selling that innovation to other places in the world…that’s what we need to be focused on.
“So I am quite bullish on the future of the globe. I’m quite bullish that the solutions to our environmental concerns are somewhere in a brilliant, thoughtful mind in America, and we need to promote that every day.”
– Anny Celsi
June 11, 2014
Photos by Russell Edwards
The Commonwealth Club of California