Seeing wind turbines in Texas may make us proud of our environmentalism, but as long as the Texas grid is disconnected from the rest of the country, those turbines will not help us reach our overall clean-energy goals.
And subsidizing wind may make it even harder to achieve these goals because it distorts the market against high-tech solutions that could reliably carry the majority of peak energy demand.
Nuclear power, for instance, produces no harmful pollution or greenhouse gases, but it has high start-up and shut-down costs and cannot power on and off economically every time a breeze passes by.
I cannot see the environmental rationale for subsidizing wind at the expense of far more reliable, and equally clean, high-tech alternatives.
A market-distorting subsidy is not a rational way to help wind get on the grid. But there is another solution.
We should forgo the haphazard approach of isolated subsidies and instead focus on modernizing our transmission infrastructure to create a nationwide, networked grid.
If wind energy could be transmitted from Texas and used to meet peak demand in California, it would not be wasted, and no subsidy would be needed to make it profitable.
Modernizing the grid would allow our nationwide energy production to be cleaner, more sustainable and more secure.
It would also help the economy, as increased competition among energy sources would lead to lower costs to consumers, higher profits for wind producers and savings of billions of dollars in government payouts.
Of course, building a networked national grid is no easy task. Success will demand a bipartisan effort, in conjunction with the private sector and state governments, to solve one of the most complex energy problems of our century.
But this is the task that political leaders who are concerned about the environment, energy security and economic growth should be focusing on.
The goals of energy independence, reduced electricity costs and environmental stewardship are all attainable.
We simply cannot allow special interests and costly distractions such as a wind-production tax credit to make us lose sight of these objectives.
Gray was White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush and was one of the principal architects of the 1991 Clean Air Act Amendments. He teaches a seminar on energy security at the New York University School of Law and leads the Washington-based law and consulting firm Boyden Gray and Associates, which has clients in the nuclear and natural gas industries. This column first appeared in The Washington Post.