Trammell S. Crow’s voice sounds exactly like the voice you imagine when you read the name “Trammell S. Crow.” It’s a big and dusty voice, a little burnt around the edges. While wandering the crowded and cosmopolitan floor of the World Climate Summit, in which the languages of a dozen countries clamored and swirled, Crow’s voice was as distinct as the Lone Star State he hails from. This is all a roundabout way to say that, as a fiscal conservative but a social liberal, Mr. Crow makes Republicans sound smooth.
The fourth of six children descended from real estate mogul Trammell Crow and his wife Margaret, Trammell S. Crow grew up around Dallas, Texas. As an heir to the Trammell Crow Company, one of the nation’s oldest developers and investors in commercial real estate, building things is in his blood. He started out as a warehouse leasing agent in Denver, moved on to developing residential subdivisions and worked his way up to developing large-scale commercial projects in Dallas. From 1986 to 1993, Mr. Crow served as the Chief Executive Officer of Trammell Crow International.
Mr. Crow also serves as the archetype of the Republican success story, but if we’re breaking things down into their political components, we’re going to have to get old school about it. Crow’s Republican ideals stretch back beyond the current party platform of science denial, to the days when Teddy Roosevelt demanded the preservation of national parks, when Richard Nixon called for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Crow adheres to a longstanding Republican tradition of respecting the Earth’s bounty, which led to him founding Texas Business for Clean Air and participating in Republicans for Environmental Protection.
Crow’s most far-reaching environmental initiative has been the creation of Earth Day Texas in 2011. Not only an effort to change how Texans think about green, it’s Mr. Crow’s hope that the annual event changes how the rest of the country thinks about Texas.
Earth Day Texas: An Environmental Show and Tell
Crow created Earth Day Texas, a free event, with the intention of marrying two sectors that have seldom seen eye to eye: Business and Environmentalism. “Texas mentality,” Crow told Planet Experts at the World Climate Summit. He described his thought process prior to that first ceremony: “I said, ‘Okay, what do you do?’ You get environmental groups to show – not talk – and then you get businesses. And we should do it in the city of Dallas because they have a recycling program, and [Southern Methodist University]’s right down the street. SMU has an engineering department, and engineers and architects get it.”
With those four ingredients, said Crow, the university, the government, the NGOs and the businesses, the event couldn’t fail. That turned out to be a Texas-sized understatement. Earth Day Texas has been growing steadily for five years now. It’s also a huge event for families, and Crow expects to see 80,000 people attend in 2016.
At the exhibition, Texans learn how to improve their health and lower their cost of living. At the same time, they learn how companies and organizations are collaborating on green goals. For their part, environmental groups have been cautiously supportive of this collaboration. There are, however, some holdouts.
Crow grinned his wily grin as he recounted a discussion he had with the Sierra Club. “The Sierra Club’s old fashioned,” he said, “they still think business is the bad guy. So one time they called me in front of their chapter, and everybody’s 65- and 75-years-old! It’s the same old guys that were there in the sixties, and they’re thinking the same way. They said, ‘You can’t have ExxonMobil!’ We said, ‘F— you!'”
Crow’s laughter is infectious, and he assured me that the exchange was a little more amicable than that.
Texas Is Already Greener Than You Think
“We produce more wind energy than any state in the union,” said Crow. And not by a little. In 2014, Texas wind energy alone accounted for 4.4 percent of the electricity produced in the USA. Here are some quick figures, courtesy of the American Wind Energy Association:
- At 16,406 megawatts (MW), Texas leads the country in installed wind capacity.
- It also ranks first in wind capacity under construction, at 6,343 MW.
- The wind energy industry has provided the state $26.3 billion in capital investment and supports over 17,000 wind-related jobs.
- In 2014, wind energy provided nine percent of all in-state electricity production, powering the equivalent of 3.6 million homes.
- By 2030, the Department of Energy projects that Texas could produce enough wind energy to power the equivalent of 15.4 million average American homes.
Yet despite these major wind wins, the state remains synonymous with Big Oil. “We haven’t been good about getting the story out,” admitted Crow. “We’re working on that.”
Meanwhile, Crow is working on his fellow Republicans. “The surveys show 48 percent of all Republicans believe in [man-made] global warming, something needs to be done about it, and they’re willing to pay taxes for it,” he said. “But when they go to the poll, there’s a cognitive dissonance there. The candidates and the incumbents are denying it, and they know. That’s disingenuous. And it’s because of the money.”
It’s the same old story, he added sadly. But the global winds are changing, and he had high hopes for what impact COP21 would have on changing the Republican platform. In Texas, the attitudes (if not the votes) are already changing.
“The average Republican in the state of Texas believes in global warming,” said Crow, “and that something should be done. But when they go to the poll, they don’t click.”
I said I didn’t understand that. “The studies don’t understand it!” said Crow.
That leaves just one answer. “We’re going to beat it,” he said with a wry smile.
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