George W. Bush Keeps It Breezy for Good-Timin' Windpower Expo Crowd
Randy Eli Grothe
Sure, when the Windpower 2010 expo wraps up tomorrow, it's back home to the bummers: stubborn transmission bottlenecks, a slow first quarter for new wind projects and the likelihood that development is going to keep slowing down. But for the next day and a half, there has never been a better time to be in the wind business.
It's like summer camp down at the Dallas Convention Center, with morning muffins-and-coffee spreads, smoke breaks in the wilderness of the Pioneer Park Cemetery lawn and even goofy souvenir photos (we've posted a few of our favorites after the jump). At Windpower 2010, any little problem's just fodder for some industry humor -- this morning's long line at the men's room? "It's a coincidental load issue," one guy offered, to a round of awkward laughs and back slaps.
Then of course, there's the hired entertainment. Last night, Elvis Costello gamely sang his "Everyday I Write the Book" for a private audience at the House of Blues, but this morning the name-tagged, tote-bagged crowd got a dose of the biggest book salesman in Dallas: George W. Bush.
Our 43rd president was in rare form this morning -- quick, self-deprecating and full of good stories. In other words, just the kind of guy you'd want to stick with through a lengthy memoir. And guess what, he told the packed arena, "I have decided to write a book. This will come as quite a shock to some of our citizens who didn't think I could read a book, much less write a book," he said. "It'll be out on November the ninth... If you've got a little spending cash... It'd be helpful if you bought it."
Bush covered a lot of ground in his 15-minute speech, before giving a "yee-haw" and sitting down with American Wind Energy Association president Denise Bode (who, like Bush, did some time in the oil business) for a half-hour chat. From a story about cleaning up dog shit in Preston Hollow -- "There I was, former president of the United States, with a plastic bag on my hand, picking up that which I had been dodging for eight solid years" -- to more topical wind-related material, his punchlines came rapid-fire.
"I don't want to be a blowhard... at a wind convention... but historians will note that this wasn't an issue I came to because I was pressured," he said.
Bush recalled his work as governor on Texas Senate Bill 7, which set a 2,000-Megawatt target for wind power production in Texas by 2009. Bush lauded Gov. Rick Perry, who he said has "carried on the vision" of S.B. 7, beating the original goal with more than 9,000 Megawatts being produced in Texas today. Now that he's out on his own, Bush pointed out the little things he's doing to support renewable power -- the geothermal energy running the ranch in Crawford, the wind unit installed at Kennebunkport and the LEED-certification for his new presidential library.
Bush's interview with Bode was even fluffier than his speech, full of his riffs on questions like, "What are you most proud of in your presidency?" and "Any do-overs?" ("One of my finest moments was not, 'Bring 'em on,'" he told her.) Though time constraints didn't allow for talk about the president's favorite sock color or pizza topping, Bode did land one big score: "Can you give us a preview of Decision Points?" she asked.
"Well, probably not," he laughed, explaining that the publishers wouldn't like him to spill the beans so soon. But what the heck, he thought out loud, going ahead to describe his book, which will be based on a series of anecdotes, just like, he said, the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.
Bush even shared what he said would be his book's first line, quoting the time his wife asked him, "Can you remember a day when you didn't have a drink?"
Each chapter of his book will cover a different decision he made as president, beginning, he said, with his decisions to run in the first place. Along the way, a few more of Bush's comments gave hints of what sort of book he'll deliver this fall: Confessional ("I've got a habitual personality"); relatable ("Frankly I never really trusted Wall Street. Maybe it was because I was raised in the deserts of West Texas"); thoughtful ("It's a fascinating experience to be reading history and making history"); and engaged ("I didn't watch the news. Hell, I was the news").
Bush's most winning moment of all, though, was an ad lib, in a nearly disastrous moment of perplexity as his wireless microphone began cutting out. Recovering quickly, Bush smacked the mic against his palm twice, waited a beat, and deadpanned a line that brought the house down: "Conventional energy," he said.
Below, here's our Windpower 2010 scrapbook.
Visitors get acquainted with Dallas's urban forest/cemetery.
After a long wait in line, conventioneers can get their very own green-screen photo souvenir.
Winners get their photos posted at the far end of the hall.