T. Boone Pickens Sniffs the Wind, Makes a Plan

Wed, 2008-08-13 14:01Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

T. Boone Pickens Sniffs the Wind, Makes a Plan

I Love Capitalists (Smart Capitalists, Anyway)

Oil magnate and takeover king T. Boone Pickens has a plan to save America from its unaffordable dependence on foreign oil: switch to wind.

Of course, critical to this plan is national willingness to support the changeover and to start buying wind power in large amounts from - well, likely from T. Boone Pickens, who is currently building the largest wind farm in the world in Pampa, Texas. Excellent!

It's interesting that in pitching his plan, Boone doesn't even mention climate change. Apparently, he's not about to give anyone the impression that he is on some crazed, late-in-life conversion to environmentalism. Nope, Pickens is all about making money - same as always. Again, excellent!

I have long been of the view that if there is no way for someone to get rich (or in T. Boone's case, richer) from saving the world, then the world is not going to get saved. This, belatedly, could be the start of something good.


Being from Texas its really exciting to see those turbine blades heading out west on I-10 from Houston toward the desert where they will be connected to 2 MW turbines. It’s also nice to see T Boone Pickens make renewable energy look prudent and profitable and less like, if you’ll pardon the expression, “tree huggers” in order for it to gain wider public acceptance.

However given that why in the world is he also saying drill everywhere when even the Energy Information Agency says that all that drilling won’t amount to spit in a bucket? Also why is he advocating the use of natural gas to power cars when we have a generous source of power overnight in the form of the spare capacity on the electric grid to charge up electric cars for our daily commuting needs?

Same reason as why he wants to do wind of course, more drilling = more money to be made!

Don’t get the wrong impression from this comment title: I’ve been supporting Pickens’ wind plans since I first heard about them in April.

However, the second part of his plan – increased domestic drilling (in spite of the EIA’s confirmation that this won’t help anything – the sound bite here is that opening ANWR results in a 1-2 cent reduction in gas prices in 2030, and switching transport to natural gas (another nonrenewable fossil fuel that also happens to be mostly in foreign reserves, including the Persian Gulf and Russia). Nothing about this second half makes sense under the goal of energy independence or profit motive.

Then again, I barely understand economics at all. If I’m wrong, please enlighten me.

To your points about Pickens wanting to still be an oil king and to say goofy and self-contradictory things, well, I can’t imagine that he wants to be run out of the nicer clubs and restaurants in Dallas or Houston, even if he is leading the pack AWAY from fossil fuels.

As to your confusion with economics, I am sometimes of the view that “voodoo economics” is not just a discredited, Reagan/Bush-Junior plan to boost the economy by giving rich people more money; it’s a redundancy.

Imagine if this actually worked.
I could refuel my car at home in my garage at night for less than ha.lf of the cost of gasoline.

Of course the problem is Taxes.
The government would absolutely have to slap a big tax on natural gas to replace what they are loosing at the Gas Pumps.
Even so. It would be greate to gas up at home.
And natural gas is plentyful and clean.
The only thing that is still produced in quantity is CO2 shich is largely benificial anyway.

I like this guy.

You thought he was talking about personal cars, huh?


“What I want to do is get the natural gas into the transportation fuel, and then we take the Trucks is where it needs to go, not the personal cars; And so the infrastructure to do that. About 30% of our transportation fuel goes to move goods everyday, in the United States. And those are the Trucks that are moving the goods. So Those are the ones that I want to get on natural gas.” youtube.com/watch?v=3mHl5FRYitQ

I know he was talking about trucks in that perticular paragraph, But I have also heard some of his other speeches and cars are also on the agenda.

Taxi’s maybe.
Or personal cars in other countries.

However I don’t think this could be more clear:
“(Bigrig) Trucks is where it needs to go, not the personal cars”

also owns one of the largest natural gas companies in the US, and just invested $20 million ($10 million of his, $10 million from Clean Energy) into a company building a natural gas taxi. So his motivation deserves a little more scrutiny.

Natural gas is a good clean transport solution for right now, but we need to get cleaner still. Mass transit, in the form of trains, in particular, will be very important. And EVs coming down the pike in two to five years will cost about one-tenth of the price of gas to recharge overnight. And their battery systems will work as backup storage to the grid, smoothing out demand during peak hours, and recharging overnight when power rates are cheapest.

It’s already being tested in California, Oregon, Michigan, London, Japan, and Germany, to name a few. (I edit a clean transportation and energy efficiency publications, so I read this stuff all day, along with the GW studies).

The sad truth is that every where you look, companies and governments are investing billions in technology that will blow you away, and save the world. The US is way ahead of us. The EU is amazing. But under our current administration, we’re missing all of that. Canada is pursuing oil sands development above all else… It’s unbelievably shortsighted. Nova Scotia could be the Saudi Arabia of wind and wave energy, powering all of eastern Canada and the eastern US, but we have a few scattered wind farms. Ontario is shedding manufacturing jobs while the Danes have a three year waiting list for their wind turbines; they can’t make them fast enough.

In the next 10 years, China will install more wind turbines than currently exist in the world!

We’re so far behind in green tech, it isn’t funny… :-(

Another thing that pisses me off about T. Boone Pickens is that he was behind the Swift Boat campaign that kept John Kerry out of the White House.*

Pickens doesn’t think he did anything wrong; politics is a dirty game, and the end justifies the means. But I can’t imagine that anyone — other than the truly committed — who would think were better off now than we would have been with a different president in the White House.

* Of course, we can argue that it was the Swift Boat campaign that sunk Kerry, or that it was his namby-pamby (and belated) response that gave Bush a second term. Half a dozen of one, six of the other.

So I don’t trust him, even though Pickens is doing many things right.

… I was not implying that T. Boone is a good guy. I am saying that he’s doing a good thing - in this one, narrow, self-serving, but ultimately really positive area.

I like that his intentions are clear (to enrich himself further).

I like that he isn’t insulting us by suggesting that he has stumbled upon his conscience while cleaning out a dusty cupboard in his childhood home.

I like that people who are supporting coal-fired power plants are going to look like idiots when they are spending more than Pickens on front end capital cost per kw/h of production capacity and then still have to buy fuel. You pretty much would have to own a coal mine (or be owned by a coal miner) to think that’s good policy.

Oh, I know Richard… sorry I didn’t make this clear. I thought your post was timely, and the simple truth is that we need people like T. Boone to engage the right wing and conservative values if we’re ever going to start turning it around.

He has people talking about global warming and renewable energy and energy independence who before could only hurl slings and arrows. I don’t like the guy, and I think he’s self-serving, but I’m hoping he’ll keep doing exactly what he’s doing.

In the course of my day job, I’ve been learning an awful lot about the great state of Texas. The green construction industry is booming; their investment in energy efficiency is dwarfs our efforts in Canada; they’re the wind capital of North America; and they’re putting more than $5 billion into a modern grid infrastructure to connect all those turbines to the big cities.

A media buy for Wind.

Rather helpful, but keep in mind the ulterior motives.

Also keep in mind that his plan is no different from Bodman/Gingrich if you swap Wind for Nuclear.

David, that’s not a swap you can readily make.

Wind power takes a short time to build, is relatively inexpensive to assemble (~$1000 per kilowatt), has an extremely low footprint (in both environmental and space considerations) and produces power at around 4 to 8 cents per kilowatt-hour. In terms of growth prospects, the industry has been growing faster than expected, increasing fivefold between 2000 and 2007.

Nuclear power takes a decade to build, is quite expensive to assemble (~$8000 per kilowatt after substantial government subsidies; for instance, this was expensive enough for MidAmerican Nuclear Power Co. (owned by Warren Buffet, no less) to cease pursuing an Idaho power plant after sinking $13 million into research!), has a much higher footprint (not just because of NIMBY but also due to waste management; we’re running out of Yuccas), and produces power at around 12 to 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. In terms of growth prospects, in the US, it’s been hovering at roughly 10% of electricity production for some time now, and it still receives massive taxpayer subsidies.

This is setting aside the much wiser, more economically-sound and environmentally-conscious move of increasing energy efficiency (saving money, power, and jobs), something that the high-nuke Republican energy plan would not do.

Ostensibly, Pickens’ plan is in the name of energy independence. Look at where the US currently gets most of its uranium from:
Now imagine what happens if demand increases on top of that.

So, David, still want to do an unadjusted swap of nuclear and wind with no caveats?

Brian D
Any source references for the build and generating costs of Nuclear and Wind?

His plan is nothing less than a land grab via Eminent Domain for a water corridor to Dallas. I hate seeing people get duped. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/06/water-not-wind-behind-tboone-transmission.php

(per the link above) Is manipulating the system to gain greater private profit justifiable just because the outcome is green?

Oooh, I hate difficult questions. History is rife with lessons about the long-term dangers of making short-term alliances with scoundrels.

But I am still cheered by the sight of an oil guy recognizing that future profits are in wind and water. That water thing will be around to bite us all - and sooner than I’d like to imagine - but wind energy is surely part of the climate solution. I’m not saying that I would give Pickens his way (or even his right-of-way). But I will still applaud his “leadership” in that single, important field. 

Since I don’t see it here, y’all might want to google “peak natural gas.” And wonder what else ol’ t.boone is up to.
He’s a lot of things I despise, but he’s not stupid.

“I have long been of the view that if there is no way for someone to get rich (or in T. Boone’s case, richer)”

As they say in investing: Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Wake me up if he ever sees a dime out of this, other than as a capital expense write-down on his corporate taxes.

“I have long been of the view that if there is no way for someone to get rich (or in T. Boone’s case, richer) from saving the world, then the world is not going to get saved.”

Well, it certainly hasn’t financially hurt Al Gore, or David Suzuki. And certainly in Gore’s case, he’s not even “saving the world”; quite the opposite – unless, of course buying a huge custom-built houseboat with jet-ski, flying around in private jets and riding in limousine motorcades counts as “saving the world”

So many comments about Pickens being evil cause he is in it for the money.
What Hypocrisy.
You all like Al Gore and he is clearly getting rich off the scam money.
With a double standard.

Pssst… everyone… don’t feed the troll!

Actually I would say Gary’s point is actually really important if misguided.

Nothing much will be done to repair the climate until someone can make a buck doing it. (Major Mega Bolded Exclamation marks)

Al Gore and T.B. Pickens are doing just that.

My objection WRT the wind project, is that is IIRC partly financed with tax payer subsidies. I could handle it being financed by Certified CO2 Offsets however. But I’d rather my tax money go to paying off government debts and eventually reduced taxes.

Pickens has stated that for the wind farms to get up and running, he would require permanent federal subsidies.

Anyone have any idea how much moolah we’re talking about?





(granted the subsidies and market protections for fossil fuels should be dropped too.)

In terms of numbers, in the US, renewable energy receives an orderof magnitude less subsides and other market protections (in absolute value) than fossil fuels. It might be that renewable energies receive a higher proportion of subsidies in terms of watts/therms delivered though.

Perhaps if the US government payed Certified CO2 Offsets for its CO2 waste, then the equivalent money might be available for the Pickens Wind Project without traditional subsidies…if it’s justified.

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