Tuesday, July 8, 2008

T. Boone Pickens: An Oilman turns to the Wind

Oil magnate T. Boone Pickens has announced a rather intriguing plan for reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil by nearly 40% within 10 years.

Many people don’t realize that America’s oil imports increased from 24% of our needs in 1970 to over 70% of our needs today. We send more than $700 billion a year overseas to some rather unsavory characters to support our oil appetite. What’s really scary is that world oil production peaked in 2005 and has fallen over the last three years. Unfortunately, demand for oil is rapidly escalating because the world is adding 2.5 billion people in India, China, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia to the global economy. So, demand for oil is only going to get stronger.

Right now, 22% of America’s electricity needs are generated using natural gas. However, natural gas makes for a better transportation fuel than oil, because it pollutes less, (30% less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline), costs less, and we have more of it at home. There are already 7 million natural gas vehicles in the world and no technological breakthroughs are required to make this a viable option. If we could divert the natural gas being used to generate electricity to fueling our cars, we could reduce consumption of foreign oil by 38%, and keep $250 billion a year at home to support our own economy.

How do we do this? Pickens’ answer is to replace natural gas with wind power.

Studies have shown that the Great Plains states are home to the greatest wind energy potential in the world. 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, allowing the natural gas that is currently used for electricity to be diverted to transportation. We’re already generating about 1% of our electricity using wind and more capacity is coming on-line. Pickens’ himself is building a 4,000 megawatt wind farm in Texas, which is the equivalent of four large coal plants, but without the pollution.

Wind power can also help revitalize rural America, as has already happened in Sweetwater, Texas after a large wind farm was built outside of town.

So, what’s the problem? Yep, you guessed it -- special interests. In this case, coal companies who are working with state legislatures in places like Kansas to muddy the waters. There is also huge potential to generate electricity from wind power off of our Atlanta Coast. Unfortunately, wealthy Americans who fear their views of the sea will be spoiled have colluded with the coal companies to stall many of these efforts.

Although it’s not part of Pickens’ plan, the southwestern part of the U.S. has huge potential for generating power using the sun. Venture capital firms are investing huge sums of money in solar energy technologies. As a result, factories are being built in Silicon Valley for the first time in decades and utilities are building large solar farms in places like California, Arizona, and Nevada.

What’s missing is real political leadership. It’s time to get rid of the politicians who are more interested in protecting the special interests rather than doing what’s right for the future of the country. Otherwise, our future may be one of looking back and reminiscing about “the good old days" when gas was only $4 a gallon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We all know that coal power took over when environmentalists blocked the construction of nuclear power. I see that in South Africa, Westinghouse, Mitsubishi and a German nucelar engineering company will start operating a full scale PBMR facility beginning in the Sping. There is nodoubt that the future belongs to this nuclear technology. Wind and wave are totally passe, only relics like T. Boone Pickens are putting any money into the technology, which is just as primitive and useless as it was 100 years ago. Solar thermal is clearly the only renewable energy technology that makes any sense at all, a fact that's being underscored by the massive amounts of venture capital flowing into this technology, apparently to the displeasure of Obama, who is looking at other ways of spending taxpayer billions on crappy technologies like wind and wave and thereby proclaim himself Earth savior. If Obama only had a brain ....