Oilman Pickens Promotes the Wind

NEW YORK, New York, July 8, 2008 (ENS) – Texas billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens is throwing his influence and money behind a campaign to wean America from its dependency on petroleum and shift to renewable energy sources, particularly wind.

“I’ve been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of,” Pickens says on his website. “But if we create a new renewable energy network, we can break our addiction to foreign oil.”

T. Boone Pickens (Photo
credit unknown)

Pickens, 80, threw a press conference in New York today to bring attention to the energy crisis, which he called the single biggest problem facing the country today.

To make his point, Pickens and his staff cited a panoply of worrisome statistics:

* In 1970, the United States imported 24 percent of its oil. Today, it’s nearly 70 percent and growing.

* At current oil prices, the United States will spend $700 billion on oil exports this year along, more than four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.

* Every day, 85 million barrels of oil are produced around the world, and 21 million barrels are used in the United States. That’s 25 percent of the world’s oil demand used by four percent of the world’s population.

To keep the public’s attention on the issue and push it to the forefront in the presidential campaign, Pickens is funding a media blitz to advance “The Pickens Plan,” which he said could reduce America’s demand for foreign oil by one-third within 10 years.

The plan calls on private industry to build wind farms across the Midwest. Calling it the nation’s “wind corridor,” Pickens said the region has the potential to meet at least 20 percent of the country’s electricity needs with energy generated by wind turbines.

The United States currently meets less than 10 percent of the country’s electricity demand using all renewable energy sources – solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass and wind – combined.

By boosting the contribution from wind, America could divert for transportation use the natural gas that’s now used to generate electricity, according to The Pickens Plan. Currently, 23 percent of the nation’s electricity demand is met by burning natural gas, a source of energy that is produced largely domestically, and is less carbon-intensive than gasoline.

Pickens is already invested in the Pampa Wind Project, a $2 billion windfarm in the Texas Panhandle that is anticipated to be the world’s largest windfarm when completed in 2014. The 1,700 to 2,000 wind turbines at Pampa are expected to generate more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1.3 million households.

Pickens is also a major shareholder in Clean Energy, the largest provider of vehicular natural gas in North America.

Because of his investments, “there is obvious conflict of interest in what Pickens has suggested,” says Tom Bemis, assistant managing editor of Market Watch, in a commentary.

All the same, Bemis calls Pickens’ plan “commendable, to the extent that it forces politicians to confront the unpleasant energy choices facing the U.S. … Absent any political leadership whatsoever on energy policies from Washington, Pickens’ ideas deserve a shot.”

Wind turbines generate power at Dyess
Air Force Base near Abilene, Texas.
(Photo by George Denslow
courtesy NREL)

The American Wind Energy Association today welcomed Pickens’ campaign and confirmed that ramping up wind power quickly on a large scale is feasible if the government enacts the correct policies, starting with renewal of the production tax credit that is currently stalled in Congress.

“Of equal importance will be longer-term policies to plan for more transmission to bring large amounts of wind power from windy areas to population centers,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher.

“Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy, in a major technical report, confirmed that wind can generate 20 percent of U.S. electricity supply by 2030, while providing benefits that far outweigh the cost,” Swisher said.

According to the DOE technical report, achieving a 20 percent wind contribution to the U.S. electricity supply by 2030 would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 25 percent in 2030.

The 20 percent wind power supply would support roughly 500,000 jobs in the United States, with an average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry.

It would increase annual revenues to local communities to more than $1.5 billion by 2030, the DOE said in its technical report, and would also reduce water consumption associated with electricity generation by four trillion gallons by 2030.

Supplying 20 percent of U.S. energy demand with wind power would reduce natural gas use by 11 percent, said the DOE report, which would in turn lower the pressure on natural gas prices.

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