Monday, June 11, 2012

Renewable Energy comes to ?Dallas?

A new generation of the Ewings is into renewable energy

The updated version of the legendary television soap opera ?Dallas? returns Wednesday evening and apparently features a Ewing offspring ? Christopher, son of Bobby and Pam ? who wants to push the Ewings into renewable energy.

The show?s website doesn?t say too much about it except that Christopher apparently has done his research in Asia (Palm oil?). Anyway, read more about Christopher at

Older fans of the series that first aired in 1978 remember the Ewings, from patriarch Jock and sons J.R. and Bobby as the embodiment of the stereotypical Texas oilmen, down to the hats, string ties and boots.

During my years covering the oil business in Texas I discovered that most oil industry insiders in the Lone Star state didn?t take?kindly to the?harsh depiction of the people in their industry. When Enron imploded in 2001?oilmen noted pointedly that it was accountants, economists and M.B.A.s, not real wildcatters, who pushed that unfortunate Houston company over the cliff.

Most Texans?laughed at the notion of ?the cartel,? in control of oil prices. While there once existed a Texas-based cartel that controlled the price of oil ? through the Texas Railroad Commission ? by the 1980s control of world oil prices had long passed to OPEC. One of the ironies of the success of ?Dallas? in the 1980s was that it came during a time when the price of oil plunged, and took with it several old and famous Texas names in the industry.

(Many sensitive Dallasites were relieved that, at least for a time, the Southfork Ranch just north of town displaced Dealey Plaza, site of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, as the city?s leading tourist attraction).

But no matter, Americans for a while couldn?t get enough of ?Dallas.? The ?Who Shot J.RR.?? episode in 1980 drew almost three-quarters of the prime-time audience, a feat never repeated.

Much has changed in the real, nonEwing world of energy since 1978, most notably the prominence of alternative energy that Ewing offspring Christopher Ewing supposedly embodies. Texas is actually more receptive to new energy forms than one might imagine.

Beginning a decade ago, many of the state?s oil drillers saw the potential in natural gas and pioneered the drilling in shale rock that now has quadrupled the known reserves of natural gas in the continental U.S.

And Texas has taken advantage of its wind ? the real kind, not the bragging ? and has become the nation?s leading producer of wind energy. Iowa is number two.

But Texas and its traditional oil industry have always coexisted uneasily with biofuels such as corn-based ethanol and biodiesel. Texas Gov. Rick Perry got an electoral brush-off in Iowa last winter in part because three years earlier he had asked the federal government ? unsuccessfully ? to revise the federal renewable fuel standard that Perry said was driving up feed costs for Texas cattle producers.

Of late, the ethanol industry has taken to throwing the epithet ?Big Oil? around in defense of the Renewable Fuel Standard and what it sees as attacks on the foundation of the demand for biofuels.

If the new incarnation of ?Dallas? wins the same huge ratings that the original enjoyed, the program?s treatment of?alternative and renewable energy sources?beginning?Wednesday night could have the potential to swing a segment of the voting public.

As they say, stay tuned.

For a trip down memory lane to the original program, and what may have been the best part of the show, its terrific theme song, click here.

For more news about Iowa agriculture and alternative energy, click here for the Register?s Green Fields page on Facebook.



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