Meanwhile, back at the ranch

George W Bush on his Prairie Chapel ranch
Yo! I’m Green. Bush walks ranch

George Bush’s policies on just about everything to do with the environment are wrong headed and destructive, but you cannot say the same for his ranch in Crawford Texas. Amazingly, given his oil industry links, Bush’s ranch is off-grid, boasting a range of eco-features including geothermal heating and cooling, that would make Leonardo di Caprio proud. The passive-solar house is positioned to absorb winter sunlight, warming the interior walkways and walls. Does his inside knowledge lead him to suspect that he will need it to survive a downturn very soon? To see full details on the house, click here:

Bush acquired the Prairie Chapel ranch in Crawford, Texas, in 1999, and construction of the house was completed 2001. A White house press release of the time showing their lack of connection with environmentalist concerns, commended the President for his use of a gas-guzzling Gator to help clear trails through “jungly” vegetation.
The place looks its best near dusk when the light is orange in the west and pale purple in the east and deep blue in the dome of the sky. Karen P. Hughes, counselor to the president, said, Bush has put in place “responsible environmental policies” at his 1,600-acre ranch. “He has installed a very environmentally friendly heating and cooling system, and he has put in place a system to recapture groundwater.”
Rainwater and household wastewater are reused for irrigation. First lady Laura Bush, is restoring native wildflowers and grasses on the property. The only sounds are the chatter of birds and the murmur of the breeze through the leaves of live oak and cedar elm trees. A short distance from the house are clusters of vivid bluebonnets and a sparkling pond, even though watchful Secret Service agents stand guard a few hundred feet from the low-slung limestone building, and telescopes for spotting intruders are set up under trees.

In 2001, White House officials introduced a policy of having the President interviewed in carefully selected backdrops including the ranch, to make pro-environmental statements, as they hoped this would draw attention away from more contentious proposals, but the strategy was dropped as it served only to highlight the hypocrisy of the administration on this issue. For Bush is no eco-nut . Early in his presidency he angered environmentalists by rejecting a treaty to reduce global warming, suspending new limits on arsenic in drinking water and breaking a vow to cut carbon dioxide emissions by power plants. And the energy policy he unveiled on gaining office eased curbs on drilling for oil and gas on public lands.

“By marketplace standards, the house is startlingly small,” says David Heymann, the architect of the 4,000-square-foot home. “Clients of similar ilk are building 16-to-20,000-square-foot houses.”
The narrow porch stretches across the back and ends of the house. At one end, it widens into a covered patio off the living room.

The Bush ranch is the kind of place we’d all like to live. Too bad his environmental policies are moving the rest of the country in exactly the opposite direction.

The Bush administration’s 63-member energy advisory team has 62 members with ties to oil, nuclear, or coal interests. His national energy policy places nuclear power, increased oil and natural gas drilling, and “clean coal” as its cornerstone. The Bush budget takes a definitive step away from developing renewable energy resources. According to the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of Americans distrust Bush’s “muscular energy” environmental agenda. In May 2006, 22 religious leaders were arrested at the Department of Energy protesting Bush’s plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Bush purchased the former Engelbrecht ranch while he was a candidate for the presidency, and Engelbrecht’s cattle continue to graze on the property. It is now worth about $3.5m, including the various government outbuildings and security measures. George W. says “the property is only good for grazing, and it’s pretty thin at that,”

The one-story, eight-room, ground-level house runs east and west. There are no stairs, even at entrances. There are no thresholds. For the most part, the house is one room wide, making for easy ventilation. The porch is the usual route from one room to another. A few rooms have interior doors.
“Every room has a relationship with something in the landscape that’s different from the room next door,” Heymann says. “Each of the rooms feels like a slightly different place.” In the guest bathroom, for example, when you look up from the sink, you look out on an oak tree rather than into a mirror, which is on a side wall.
“There’s a great grove of oak trees to the west that protects it from the late afternoon sun,” Heymann says. “Then there is a view out to the north looking at hills, and to the east out over a lake, and the view to the south running out to beautiful hills.”
Heymann says most of the rooms are relatively small and have high ceilings
The living-family room and the kitchen-dining room in the east end of the house are large, laid out for frequent entertaining and family gatherings. The living room has a series of glass picture doors.
The tin roof of the house extends beyond the porch. When it rains, it’s possible to sit on the patio and watch the water pour down without getting wet. Under a gravel border around the house, a concrete gutter channels the water into a 25,000-gallon cistern for irrigation. In hot weather, a terrace directly above the cistern is a little cooler than the surrounding area.
Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into purifying tanks underground — one tank for water from showers and bathroom sinks, which is so-called “gray water,” and one tank for “black water” from the kitchen sink and toilets. The purified water is funneled to the cistern with the rainwater. It is used to irrigate flower gardens, newly planted trees and a larger flower and herb garden behind the two-bedroom guesthouse. Water for the house comes from a well.
The Bushes installed a geothermal heating and cooling system, which uses about 25% of the electricity that traditional heating and air-conditioning systems consume. Several holes were drilled 300 feet deep, where the temperature is a constant 67 degrees. Pipes connected to a heat pump inside the house circulate water into the ground, then back up and through the house, heating it in winter and cooling it in summer. The water for the outdoor pool is heated with the same system, which proved so efficient that initial plans to install solar energy panels were cancelled.
The features are environment-friendly, but the reason for them was practical — to save money and to save water, which is scarce in this dry, hot part of Texas.
Heymann argued that a swimming pool would interrupt the stark landscape. After all, the house is meant to be an integral part of the land. But the twins wanted a swimming pool. “I kept fighting that, but it happened,” he says, acknowledging that his wishes didn’t stand a chance. President Bush calls it “the whining pool” — whine long enough and you get it.
. The materials used to build the house were relatively inexpensive. Factory-built roof trusses were shipped in and nailed into place. Most of the floors are concrete. The white roof is galvanized tin.
The walls are built from discards of a local stone called Leuders limestone, which is quarried in the area. The 12-to-18-inch-thick stone has a mix of colors on the top and bottom, with a cream- colored center that most people want.
“They cut the top and bottom of it off because nobody really wants it,” Heymann says. “So we bought all this throwaway stone. It’s fabulous. It’s got great color and it is relatively inexpensive.”
“We’ve got a lot of economies in the house,” he says, noting the Bushes may be wealthy, but they are “frugal people.”

At the end of their driveway is an huge metal security barrier that recedes into the ground when a car is admitted. Secret Service agents have an air-conditioned trailer where the mailbox might otherwise be, and the government built a small house where agents sleep.

in 1999 Crawford was, as it is now, a one-stoplight town with about 700 hardy souls. But after Bush was elected president in 2000, Crawford saw its tourism numbers skyrocket. Lately, though, visitors are more likely to be protesters than tourists, and protesters don’t usually buy trinkets and t-shirts celebrating “The Western White House.”
An Associated Press story reported that Crawford reaped about $813,000 in sales from souvenir shops in 1999. That ballooned to $2.66 million in 2004, but souvenir shop sales have been in a steady decline since. Locals blame Bush’s unpopularity and the war in Iraq for the drop.
But hope springs eternal. Bill Johnson, owner of Crawford’s largest gift shop, Yellow Rose, said he plans to continue running his store, which sells crosses, saddles, guns and Western clothing in addition to coffee mugs, T-shirts and other souvenirs. “I think the president’s ratings will go up, and when that happens, the sales go up,” he said.

How to get there: Take Highway 6 to the town of Valley Mills. South of Valley Mills on Farm-to-Market Road 317, pick up Middle Bosque Road. It winds and twists past cliffs and through woods for about 10 miles, tracing a path about a mile north and west of Rainey Creek and the Bush’s Prairie Chapel Ranch. Past the ranch property, Middle Bosque Road ends at Canaan Church Road. Go about two miles – you’ll pass the turnoff to the entrance of the Bush ranch on Prairie Chapel Road -and take a right on Coryell City Road to see the very quaint Canaan Baptist Church. You’ll definitely want to linger there a while.

8 Responses

  1. Hi! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.


  2. George and Barbara Bush and their dog Millie all developed autoimmune diseases when they were in the White House. The Bush family may know something we don’t about wireless technology and the plans the government is implimenting with for the grid.






  4. Selling Renewable Energy (Solar Etc.) Without Incentives
    In short, we need to market solar as an investment that will save money while you own it and return most or all of your investment when you sell the building it’s sitting on.

    Chances are, as natural gas and oil prices go up, there will be a corresponding jump in your monthly electricity bill. So, instead of promoting a solar power system based on today’s savings in electricity, we need to have easily understandable projections on what the savings will be over the life of a system. These numbers need to reflect what’s really happening to the cost of energy!
    Here are some ideas I’d like to share. First, we need to find a way to make renewable energy economically competitive without the tax incentives. We do this by answering the question: “What is the opportunity cost of not using solar to decrease your energy bill?”

    There’s something interesting I’ve found. There’s a direct correlation among electrical rates, the cost of air conditioning a building, the heat index and the amount of sunshine on any given day. In other words, on the hottest, sunniest days, we use more electricity that costs more per kilowatt. So, why do we continue to promote average hours of solar production, when in fact (at least down here in California), we produce far more solar power per day during the heat of the summer when energy costs are highest, than we do in our temperate winter months when energy costs are lowest. A sound marketing approach would be to evaluate solar energy in “dollars” of production per year instead of in kilowatts. I’m sure there are some smart people out there who can match kilowatts of solar production on any given day of the year to what the rates will be (based on the projected costs of electricity).
    Secondly, we should stop trying to sell a solar package as a “cost.” In real estate, there is a principle that says anything affixed to real estate becomes an integral part of the real estate. Once a solar package is installed, it immediately increases the value of a property. So how can you predict how much more a building will be worth in 5-10 years with a package as opposed to without one? In the real estate appraisal business, there are three approaches to appraising a property. The market approach (what are comparable properties selling for), the reproduction cost (the cost of creating an identical building at current construction and material prices) and the actual original cost adjusted for inflation. In all three methods, there’s a strong case that a system installed today will make the building worth more today and in future years.
    We need some realistic numbers to predict how much more a property will be worth in the years following installation. I believe that if you sell a building 5-10 years after installing solar, you should recoup all of your investment in the system plus an added bonus. If the rumors are true, a residential system (using the market approach) adds $20 of value to a home for every $1 it saves on the electric bill.
    For commercial appraisals, you would divide the income (savings) by a cap rate (which was about 9% at last report). A system that saves $2000 a year then would be worth $40,000 on a home or $25,000 on a business. But if the cost of electricity goes up (if that is remotely possible), then wouldn’t the value of the solar power system increase as well? In reality, we are not selling something that costs — we are actually offering a financial investment that grows comparably with other forms of energy.
    In short, we need to market solar as an investment that will save money while you own it and return most or all of your investment when you sell the building it’s sitting on. In commercial real estate, they use a “Cash Flow Analysis” form as the tool to evaluate a building’s value using the income approach. We need a similar tool for putting a value on solar. If solar makes sense with this approach, then just think of how much better the systems look when you add the tax advantages!
    This approach also applies to the cost of Energy efficiency implementation.
    Reducing operational costs increases the value of the business and or property.
    Compiled by Jay Draiman, Energy analyst

  5. I’m an architect, ex-builder, LEED AP, and believe that since the Bush family hired an architect, designed what they did, had it build, paid for it, they knew what they were doing and the benefits for them and others who follow their example. See articles on Al Gore’s house. I agree with the comment about Mandatory Energy Managment and disagree with much of the Bush Administration environmental policy, and do personal congressional and presidential “lobbying” letters accordingsly…and although a life-time Republican, has not supported the GOP financially as I have in the past because of these environmental issues.
    Respectfully submitted.

  6. Interesting story – i’d be tempted to make some crack about Bush’s split personality if it weren’t so sad that he enjoys his off-grid house without seemingly any real appreciation for what it means.


    In order to insure energy and economic independence as well as better economic growth without being blackmailed by foreign countries, our country, the United States of America’s Utilization of Energy Sources must change.
    “Energy drives our entire economy.” We must protect it. “Let’s face it, without energy the whole economy and economic society we have set up would come to a halt. So you want to have control over such an important resource that you need for your society and your economy.” The American way of life is not negotiable.
    Our continued dependence on fossil fuels could and will lead to catastrophic consequences.

    The federal, state and local government should implement a mandatory renewable energy installation program for residential and commercial property on new construction and remodeling projects with the use of energy efficient material, mechanical systems, appliances, lighting, retrofits etc. The source of energy must be by renewable energy such as Solar-Photovoltaic, Geothermal, Wind, Biofuels, Ocean-Tidal, Hydrogen-Fuel Cell etc. This includes the utilizing of water from lakes, rivers and oceans to circulate in cooling towers to produce air conditioning and the utilization of proper landscaping to reduce energy consumption. (Sales tax on renewable energy products and energy efficiency should be reduced or eliminated)

    The implementation of mandatory renewable energy could be done on a gradual scale over the next 10 years. At the end of the 10 year period all construction and energy use in the structures throughout the United States must be 100% powered by renewable energy. (This can be done by amending building code)

    In addition, the governments must impose laws, rules and regulations whereby the utility companies must comply with a fair “NET METERING” (the buying of excess generation from the consumer at market price), including the promotion of research and production of “renewable energy technology” with various long term incentives and grants. The various foundations in existence should be used to contribute to this cause.

    A mandatory time table should also be established for the automobile industry to gradually produce an automobile powered by renewable energy. The American automobile industry is surely capable of accomplishing this task. As an inducement to buy hybrid automobiles (sales tax should be reduced or eliminated on American manufactured automobiles).

    This is a way to expedite our energy independence and economic growth. (This will also create a substantial amount of new jobs). It will take maximum effort and a relentless pursuit of the private, commercial and industrial government sectors’ commitment to renewable energy – energy generation (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels, geothermal, energy storage (fuel cells, advance batteries), energy infrastructure (management, transmission) and energy efficiency (lighting, sensors, automation, conservation) (rainwater harvesting, water conservation) (energy and natural resources conservation) in order to achieve our energy independence.

    “To succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality.”

    Jay Draiman, Energy Consultant
    Northridge, CA. 91325
    Feb. 17, 2007

    P.S. I have a very deep belief in America’s capabilities. Within the next 10 years we can accomplish our energy independence, if we as a nation truly set our goals to accomplish this.
    I happen to believe that we can do it. In another crisis–the one in 1942–President Franklin D. Roosevelt said this country would build 60,000 [50,000] military aircraft. By 1943, production in that program had reached 125,000 aircraft annually. They did it then. We can do it now.
    “the way we produce and use energy must fundamentally change.”
    The American people resilience and determination to retain the way of life is unconquerable and we as a nation will succeed in this endeavor of Energy Independence.

    The Oil Companies should be required to invest a substantial percentage of their profit in renewable energy R&D and implementation. Those who do not will be panelized by the public at large by boy cutting their products.

    Solar energy is the source of all energy on the earth (excepting volcanic geothermal). Wind, wave and fossil fuels all get their energy from the sun. Fossil fuels are only a battery which will eventually run out. The sooner we can exploit all forms of Solar energy (cost effectively or not against dubiously cheap FFs) the better off we will all be. If the battery runs out first, the survivors will all be living like in the 18th century again.

    Every new home built should come with a solar package. A 1.5 kW per bedroom is a good rule of thumb. The formula 1.5 X’s 5 hrs per day X’s 30 days will produce about 225 kWh per bedroom monthly. This peak production period will offset 17 to 2

    4 cents per kWh with a potential of $160 per month or about $60,000 over the 30-year mortgage period for a three-bedroom home. It is economically feasible at the current energy price and the interest portion of the loan is deductible. Why not?

    Title 24 has been mandated forcing developers to build energy efficient homes. Their bull-headedness put them in that position and now they see that Title 24 works with little added cost. Solar should also be mandated and if the developer designs a home that solar is impossible to do then they should pay an equivalent mitigation fee allowing others to put solar on in place of their negligence. (Installation should be paid “performance based”).

    Installation of renewable energy and its performance should be paid to the installer and manufacturer based on “performance based” (that means they are held accountable for the performance of the product – that includes the automobile industry). This will gain the trust and confidence of the end-user to proceed with such a project; it will also prove to the public that it is a viable avenue of energy conservation.

    Installing a renewable energy system on your home or business increases the value of the property and provides a marketing advantage.

    Nations of the world should unite and join together in a cohesive effort to develop and implement MANDATORY RENEWABLE ENERGY for the sake of humankind and future generations.
    The head of the U.S. government’s renewable energy lab said Monday (Feb. 5) that the federal government is doing “embarrassingly few things” to foster renewable energy, leaving leadership to the states at a time of opportunity to change the nation’s energy future. “I see little happening at the federal level. Much more needs to happen.” What’s needed, he said, is a change of our national mind set. Instead of viewing the hurdles that still face renewable sources and setting national energy goals with those hurdles in mind, we should set ambitious national renewable energy goals and set about overcoming the hurdles to meet them. We have an opportunity, an opportunity we can take advantage of or an opportunity we can squander and let go,”
    solar energy – the direct conversion of sunlight with solar cells, either into electricity or hydrogen, faces cost hurdles independent of their intrinsic efficiency. Ways must be found to lower production costs and design better conversion and storage systems.
    All government buildings, Federal, State, County, City etc. should be mandated to be energy efficient and must use renewable energy on all new structures and structures that are been remodeled/upgraded.
    “The goverment should serve as an example to its citizens”
    Jay Draiman

    Northridge, CA 91325

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