Texas: An Alternative-Energy Breakthrough

As President Obama champions alternative energy, a vexing problem remains: there's no way to share wind and solar surpluses nationally—whisking, say, a percentage of the Midwest's abundant turbine power to cities on the Eastern Seaboard. That's because the country's electricity grid is divided into three independent sections: east, west, and, since the mid-1930s, the querulous state of Texas. A proposed superstation in New Mexico would sync the three systems, a measure that renewable-energy experts see as a tipping point for investment in the industry. But only if Texas, the country's biggest producer of wind power, participates. Because the project threatens to bring the Longhorn State at least partially under federal jurisdiction, Texas has fought it since it was announced in 2007. Texas wants things both ways: a chance to connect to the national market, but also set its own wholesale prices in state.

Now, after a hearing last week, the standoff could be coming to a close. Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, says he's "fairly confident" Texas will retain its energy fiefdom. If it does, the New Mexico plant could be ready by 2013—setting up at least the infrastructure for a green tomorrow.