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Picking at Pickens’ Plan

July 8th, 2008 · 14 Comments

Have you heard? Oilman T Boone Pickens is not only committed to planting the world’s largest wind farm in the fertile soil of Texas. He is not only committed to working to stringing a meaningful electrical grid to move electricity from that wind farm to lush markets for harvesting serious profits. T Boone has a plan to save America (while making a bundle) and has committed some serious dough to convincing Americans that his plan is the path to a better future. T Boone restates forcefully what George W Bush said in the 2006 State of the Union address about America’s oil addiction. According to T Boone,

America is addicted to foreign oil.

It’s an addiction that threatens our economy, our environment and our national security. It touches every part of our daily lives and ties our hands as a nation and a people.

The addiction has worsened for decades and now it’s reached a point of crisis.

Here is one of the nation’s leading oil men, a fossil fuel fortune-maker, laying out quite clearly that America’s oil habit is centerpiece of risk for the nation in the years ahead. Is the addiction’s solution to be found in Newt’s Drill Here! Drill Now! Pay Less (a decade from now … maybe)? Not according to T Boone:

Can’t we just produce more oil?

World oil production peaked in 2005. Despite growing demand and an unprecedented increase in prices, oil production has fallen over the last three years. Oil is getting more expensive to produce, harder to find and there just isn’t enough of it to keep up with demand.

The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone.

Maybe Newt and the Republicans should be listening to people who actually know at least something about energy?

Let us be absolutely clear: Legendary conservative oilman T. Boone Pickens says oil is a dead end!

Oil is dead, T Boone tells us (the US), what should we do?

T Boone Pickens isn’t stopping with defining a problem, he is outlining (forcefully) a proposed solution path. ThePickensPlan is a concept for reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil, to carve into the $700 billion+ per year heading out of the United States to ensure top-offed McSUVs. As T Boone expresses it, “the largest transfer of wealth in human history.” The PickensPlan has a mixture of extremely good and important elements, and concepts that simply don’t comport with energy reality. Let’s take a brief look at some of this.

Centerpiece of this effort is green power and green jobs: a drive for moving wind from roughly 1% of the US electrical supply to 22% by 2020. Construction and maintenance jobs for rural America with cleaner electricity for all Americans. Connect this wind produced in the center of the nation to major urban markets with HVDC cables (much like the European TREC concept). What would it take to do this?

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.

A true bargain and a vision which this author can share with T Boone.

The next stage of the vision, however, is more troubling.

T Boone makes a direct relationship between reaching 22% wind electricity with the 22% of electricity currently produced with natural gas turbines. For T Boone, the goal is to use the wind electricity to displace natural gas electricity to free up that natural gas for displacing petroleum currently used for transport. What’s the problem here? On first brush, multiple items jump out:

  • Natural gas is already a tight resource, already “peaked” like oil, which we could well likely have supply problems in the years ahead. Should we create / foster a new demand?
  • Natural gas and wind power are, in fact, complementary electricity sources at this time. Unless there is a major storage system (such as hydro storage), wind’s challenge is its intermittentcy, that the wind isn’t always blowing. Natural gas turbines can be turned on / off quickly to work as a partner with wind to support electrical demand.
  • This plan seems to ignore one of the most fruitful paths to cut into America’s oil addiction: plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and moving transport to electricity. Why not use that wind generated electricity to directly fuel America’s ever-more electrified transport sector?
  • Natural gas is simply too useful and expensive to squander [in transport].

Okay, T Boone, I’m ready for this conversation. I can go a long with you in defining the problem. I see the value and importance of planting turbines and harvesting the wind for decades to come. But, you’ve lost me when it comes to natural gas.

With all of your investment in outreach, advertising and fancy website, something is truly impressive on first brush: the Forum looks truly open to real conversations, supportive and critical of your ideas. Eric raises the question of your role in the Swift Boating of John Kerry (with 94 comments last that I checked). Tim Martin demonstrates how partisanship can led to denial of reality as he calls on T Boone to Quit Drinking the Kool Aid from the Liberal Media spinning many of the classic fantasies and truthiness of those caught within the first stage of denial. And, so on … Over 160 posts, many with 10s and some with 100s of comments, as of this writing. A hat tip, Mr Pickens, for embracing the new media to such a degree that you’ve opened your website to such an open and strong debate.

To return to T Boone’s own words

I’m T Boone Pickens. I’ve been an oilman all my life. But this is one emergency that we can’t drill our way out of.

This is a serious problem that requires serious solutions. While not in accord with the natural gas portion of T Boone’s vision, he is bringing much of value to national attention. And, I fully agree with him:

It’s our crisis. And, we can solve it.

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Tags: Energy · environmental · wind power

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Karen Halls // Jul 8, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    Karen Halls

  • 2 scotty // Jul 10, 2008 at 11:05 am

    There is a public Forum for discussions about Pickens plan :

  • 3 A Siegel // Jul 10, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Scotty — It would be nice if you actually read things as you shoot around the web reacting to blog posts on Pickens’ Plan. Note that I spend a full paragraph talking about and praising the forum at the website. And, that I link to it.

  • 4 Del "Abe" Jones // Jul 15, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    While We Fan The Flame

    Some people think new drilling
    Up In ANWR and offshore
    Is the only, best, solution
    So, we can produce some more.

    Doesn’t anyone have suspicions
    About those White House oilmen
    Who let the price run rampant
    Doesn’t anyone blame them?

    You can bet they will happy
    Laughing their way to the bank
    I wonder, after they leave office
    Just where, their wealth, will rank?

    Oh sure, it’s not all their fault
    For, we’ve all been to blame
    For too long, we’ve been content
    To burn and fan the oil flame.

    We need to use the alternatives
    Which, we already know about
    Then there would be a bunch of oil
    That we could do without!

    When I was just a young man
    In the fields, of New Mexico
    We would drill a good oil well
    Then, we would cap it and go.

    Those are wells drilled in the Fifties
    That have not produced one drop
    And senseless hoarding of our oil
    Most certainly, has to stop.

    Oil worth less than five bucks a barrel
    At the time when it was found
    And it’s the height of stupidity
    To just leave it there, underground.

    But, as oilman T Boone Pickens says
    “We can’t drill our way out!” anyway
    And the longer we wait to change
    The more, we will have to pay.

    He’s trying to build an army
    Of folks, who really want a change
    To energy from Sun and wind
    And that’s not so hard to arrange.

    There’s coal and natural gas for cars
    And nuclear, but that takes time
    But, we could leave a better world
    For those kids of yours and mine.

    All it takes is some initiative
    And saying no, to more pollution
    It’s time all of us all joined in
    To this American Revolution.

    If not, over the next ten years
    We’ll spend ten trillion over there
    And foreigners love our money
    But, besides that, they don’t care.

    So lets all make the commitment
    And tell our leaders what we think
    For if we don’t, and stand idly by
    We just might fall, o’er the brink.

    Get involved at
    Del “Abe” Jones

    “Mankind’s greatest accomplishment is not the revolution of technology it is the evolution of creativity ” copyright Del “Abe” Jones 1984

  • 5 Get Energy Smart! NOW!!! » Blog Archive » Offshore Drilling: We Can Choose Simple Confusion or Outright Lies // Aug 2, 2008 at 9:48 am

    […] repetition continues even as legendary oilman and massive Republican Party contributor T Boone Pickens has said, “I’ve been an oilman all my life. But this is one emergency that we can’t drill […]

  • 6 j mcneill // Aug 5, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Picken s plan looks only @ wind power an not much @ other sources.

  • 7 Get Energy Smart! NOW!!! » Blog Archive » The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: T. Boone Pickens // Aug 26, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    […] demon of imported oil.  Texas Oilman T Boone Pickens is investing over $50 million in promoting The Pickens’ Plan with advertising, a tremendous website, public affairs, and public presentation after […]

  • 8 carol Bassett // Sep 4, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    We talk about the use of oil for gasoline, which is probably the largest user of oil but what about other things that oil is used for such as plastic bags. These are used by our grocery stores, department stores and many other places by the millions.
    Plastic is recyclable but to what percent? They fill our landfills and clutter our roads. They do not disintegrate like paper. Paper comes from a replaceable source.
    We have many farmers in our southern states that make a living growing trees for paper.
    Why not look into the amount of oil that could be saved if we went back to paper bags at the stores instead of plastic?

  • 9 A Siegel // Sep 4, 2008 at 8:04 pm


    I am a believer at undertaking a broad approach. As you mention plastic bags, you might enjoy this post: which discusses plastic bags. And, nearly eliminating the use of disposable plastic bags can be done quickly, as Ireland showed:

    We can cut fuel use through eating locally, organically, purchasing wood (not plastic) products, etc …

    Re oil use

    it takes about 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million plastic bags, and the U.S. goes through 380 billion of them a year.

    A statistics class at Indiana U did the math: more than 1.6 billion gallons of oil are used each year for plastic bags alone. The more we use plastic bags, the more we waste oil.

    1.6 gallons = roughly 40 million barrels = roughly two days of US oil use or about 1/2 days of global production.

  • 10 Melvin Goldstein // Sep 11, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Question: question 12 in “Thinking Physics” – page 259
    Inside a warm damp cave completely sealed off from the outside world could life flourish indefinitely?

    Answer: No life forms could flourish indefinitely. In an isolated system, entropy always increases. Life tries to push entropy in the opposite direction. When life is created, entropy decreases in the cave but nature demands a greater entropy increase offset. The cave, being sealed, would mean that entropy would reach its max, thus energy necessary to sustain and generate new life would be unavailable. Maybe we should learn a lesson from this. Available energy is mandatory. Wealth may equate to available energy. If you want to live in a nation that is prospering make sure that its available energy supply is abundant.

  • 11 T Boone Pickens continues hard sell with blogger call // Oct 7, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    […] Boone Pickens continues his hard sell efforts when it comes to the flawed Pickens’ Plan. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of bloggers had a teleconference with T Boone. (Notably, this is […]

  • 12 Questions to ponder: Pelosi investing in Pickens? // Nov 8, 2008 at 9:11 am

    […] into a roughly $10 billion boondoogle of converting trucking fleets to natural gas. As with the broader Pickens’ Plan, Proposition 10 seems to make some sense on a superficial level but didn’t stand up to any […]

  • 13 Rolf Crippen // Mar 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I have 300+AR. In pawnee co. Kansas. How do i get stared In WIND FARMING

  • 14 Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) Cozying up With T Boone Pickens // Jul 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    […] Picking at Pickens’ Plan, 7/8, A Siegel […]