T. Boone Pickens has a plan. Or is he just an old windbag?
July 9, 2008 1 Comment
There’s a new commercial running all across the country in support of a new energy plan put forth by an 80-year-old oil billionaire from Oklahoma.
And here’s the weird thing: It appears to be a really good, progressive plan based bridging the gap to renewable, green power. He calls America the “Saudi Arabia of wind”:
Studies from around the world show that the Great Plains states are home to the greatest wind energy potential in the world — by far.
The Department of Energy reports that 20% of America’s electricity can come from wind. North Dakota alone has the potential to provide power for more than a quarter of the country….
Building wind facilities in the corridor that stretches from the Texas panhandle to North Dakota could produce 20% of the electricity for the United States at a cost of $1 trillion. It would take another $200 billion to build the capacity to transmit that energy to cities and towns.
That’s a lot of money, but it’s a one-time cost. And compared to the $700 billion we spend on foreign oil every year, it’s a bargain.
Also, being a good American capitalist, he pitches it as the economic boom it can be in both technology and in the small towns in flyover country (please note his financial stake in this plan):
Sweetwater was typical of many small towns in middle-America. With a shortage of good jobs, the youth of Sweetwater were leaving in search of greater opportunities. And the town’s population dropped from 12,000 to under 10,000.
When a large wind power facility was built outside of town, Sweetwater experienced a revival. New economic opportunity brought the town back to life and the population has grown back up to 12,000.
In the Texas panhandle, just north of Sweetwater, is the town of Pampa, where T. Boone Pickens’ Mesa Power is currently building the largest wind farm in the world.
At 4,000 megawatts — the equivalent combined output of four large coal-fire plants — the production of the completed Pampa facility will double the wind energy output of the United States.
In addition to creating new construction and maintenance jobs, thousands of Americans will be employed to manufacture the turbines and blades. These are high skill jobs that pay on a scale comparable to aerospace jobs.
Plus, wind turbines don’t interfere with farming and grazing, so they don’t threaten food production or existing local economies.
The other side of his plan is a move to natural gas for transportation purposes. Again, expensive, but an investment, to be sure:
We currently use natural gas to produce 22% of our electricity. Harnessing the power of wind to generate electricity will give us the flexibility to shift natural gas away from electricity generation and put it to use as a transportation fuel — reducing our dependence on foreign oil by more than one-third.
It’s a surprisingly good plan.
The only real question is how seriously to take this guy:
We might want to pay attention to T. Boone Pickens. He has the cash to play a Perot-like role in shaping this election. Similar to how Perot focused the campaign on the deficit and debt so much he got a Democratic president to blance the budget, Pickens, by the sheer weight of the money he can throw around, might be able to shift the whole national discussion to one on energy independence.
It wouldn’t be the first time Pickens used his wealth to move the electorate. He got plenty of practice in 2004 as a major contributor to the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth campaign that helped convince enough voters that the guy who volunteered to go to Vietnam and won medals for his heroism was a bigger coward than the guy who used his daddy’s name and connections help him disappear from his service in the Texas Air National Guard.
Energy is the issue of the future as it goes at the heart of foreign policy, the economy and the climate.
Let’s hope he’s at least as successful this time around as he was in 2004.