Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Greening of T. Boone Pickens

Known for his famous acquisition attempts of the 80’s, former corporate raider and greenmailer T. Boone Pickens is now the picture of an environmental warrior. A billionaire three times over, Pickens is now leading the charge for clean renewable energy.

His $10 billion project in the Texas panhandle, in and around Pampa, Texas, is purported to be the largest wind energy project ever proposed.

On CNN, Pickens had this to say about wind power last May:

“Wind power is ... clean, it's renewable. It's everything you want. And it's a stable supply of energy. It's unbelievable that we have not done more with wind.”
As much as I like this idea, there’s something about Pickens that enrages me. Recall that this is the guy who forced massive amounts of expense and loss of jobs as he moved to take over several major oil companies in the ‘80’s. So I am not going to give him a pass on everything he says. Wind power, while an exceedingly good idea, and definitely the way to go, is definitely not a "stable supply of energy".

Sometimes the wind dies down.

Not in the “wind corridor” that stretches through the middle of the continent, you say? Yes, even in the wind corridor. Recall this story from midwinter when cold calm air settled on a majority of Texas, stilling the wind turbine blades everywhere. This tripped the alarms at the Texas grid, and power was cut to several industrial sites to avoid rolling blackouts across the state.

Don’t get me wrong, I like wind power and the benefits it brings vis-à-vis deterrence of global warming, I just have a problem when something like this gets over sold, something that T. Boone Pickens is very good at. Wind power, yes, but it is definitely not a 100% solution.

Which is why Pickens is also for taking America off of its dependence on petroleum in its transportation infrastructure.

He goes further. By sending wind-generated power into the grid, power stations that use natural gas to generate the steam that drives their power-generating turbines could switch off the flow in their natural gas supply lines. Natural gas, then could supplant petroleum as the nation’s number one transportation fuel.

“Fueling these plants with wind power would then free up the natural gas historically used to power them, and would mean that natural gas could replace foreign oil as fuel for motor vehicles.”
Well now that’s pretty shrewd. Oil prices have skyrocketed due to speculation and war in the Middle East. Not so natural gas, which remains at a fairly steady price. Yes, natural gas prices have gone up in the past year, but not by nearly the amount that oil and refined products have.

I would hate to own an oil company right now that didn’t have a lot of oil reserves, but tons and tons of gas reserves. To stabilize costs, power companies contract for natural gas supply with long term set prices. So owning lots of natural gas reserves gets you a nice steady supply of income, but locks you out of the fun stuff like they have in oil speculation.

Mesa Petroleum, T. Boone Pickens’ company, has by far more gas reserves than it has petroleum acreage. Mesa Petroleum is one of the nations largest natural gas producers, it seems.

So it’s a win-win for T. Boone, and America goes green by sending more of its long green to Pickens.

Now that’s entrepreneurship.


Anonymous said...

So what if Mr. Pickens owns a lot of natural gas....at least its American produced for sale to Americans, and the money is spent here in the good old USA - not in some Arab country that would like to destroy this country and everyone in it.

JoDan said...

So what if Mr. Pickens wants to sale his natural gas to Americans. It's better than buying foreign oil and sending our money overseas. This idea is what the people of the USA need. We all should be thinking of how we can become more self-relient and keep our money right here in the good old USA.

MeadowLark said...

My thoughts too...


It just makes me sad that as sheep, we will all jump on the bandwagon because it allows us to continue our gross overconsumption.

Anonymous said...

Just a different kind of snake oil salesman. Instead of talking about and working to develop CONSERVATION policies it's the same old same old "consume consume consume until there is nothing left!!!"

What is the carbon footprint of one wind turbine?

And what happens to those off-shore wind farms when a hurricane hits them?

Wind is nowhere near as efficient as solar....how many solar panels could they deploy with billions of dollars? Wind is inefficient, unpredictable, and should only be seen as augmenting the deployment of solar arrays....do you know how many empty rooftops there are out there?

Anonymous said...

What do you propose?

Mark ~ Smithfield, Va said...

I would agree there are more than one types of green in this for Pickens. While he is by no means a saint, he is a friendlier devil than Chavez and others.

SlimPickenz said...

T Boone has a plan. T Boone has the numbers, both in his pocketbook and from his analysts. He doesn't propose a 100% solution, but a relatively practical piece to impliment right here and right now. Turbines exist, they really work, and can be erected in a way that Americans can be proud of in terms of saying "hey, they don't look that bad. Isn't it cool that we are doing this?" Kinda like when the Hoover dam and other massive projects were undertaken and Americans were brimming with pride - and jobs! The technology to prevent massive "hits" to the grid exists and will be part of the overall energy infrastructure that should be simultaneously improved.

If either party steps forth with a definable, practical, multi-faceted approach to solving this problem we face they will walk away with this election. I just hope that people will vote on real issues like this and global security from tyranny. We can't vote for change unless it is clearly defined and makes sense. At the same time, we just can't vote for experience without a clear line of sight as to how that experience will be brought to bear in keeping the American way of life around for our children.

Energy and global security for democratic societies are the defining issues of our time. Who will step up with an actual plan?

Anonymous said...

at least he has a plan.which is more than than most politicians have..]

Hal said...

No, I have to differ on this, Anon. T. Boone's plan differs not a whit from the plan of "most politicians."

T. Boone's plan is to enrich himself, his partners and heirs by mounting a wind power campaign whose ultimate goal is to put natural gas on the same auction block as petroleum. Some politicians have similar plans. They just aren't as obvious.