What to do about soaring energy costs, national security, economic chaos and no energy policy?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind, says T. Boone Pickens.
The legendary businessman, philanthropist and AAPG member has unleashed a presidential candidate-caliber public relations campaign to push a sweeping wind power plan that would transform the U.S. energy mix and serve as an energy bridge to the future.
“I am calling on the next president and Congress to take immediate action in the first 100 days of the new administration to do whatever is necessary to make this plan a reality,” Pickens said.
To promote the “Pickens Plan,” he is bankrolling what his aides say will be the biggest public policy ad campaign ever, which began in July and is estimated by insiders to cost about $50 million.
The nationwide multimedia advertising and Internet campaign includes a Facebook social networking site to generate momentum and focus attention on what he is identifying as a “crisis.” The Web site is www.pickensplan.com and includes video of the ads that have appeared on television. Grassroots efforts also are encouraged and more information will be rolled out through the election season.
He also is on a whirlwind media circuit, and has been omnipresent on U.S. news and commentary programs and quoted widely in newspapers.
Pickens cited a U.S. Department of Energy report concluding that 20 percent of the U.S. electricity supply can be generated from wind turbines in the nation’s “wind corridor” – a vast stretch from West Texas to the Canadian border. Pickens said the wind corridor is called the ‘Saudi Arabia of the Wind’ … because we have the greatest wind reserves in the world.”
He suggested the project could be funded by private investors.
Just last May, Pickens announced phase one of the Pampa Wind Project, which will be the world’s largest wind farm with more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for 1.3 million homes.
His company, Mesa Power, ordered 667 wind turbines from General Electric as part of the $2 billion first phase of the massive wind farm to be built in Texas. The company said the deal was the world’s largest single-site wind turbine purchase order.
Under the Pickens Plan, power from thousands of wind turbines that would line the corridor could be distributed throughout the country via electric power transmission lines and could fuel power plants in large population hubs, he said.
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 non-U.S. oil as fuel for motor vehicles, he said.
Using natural gas for transportation needs could replace one-third of the United States’ imported oil and would save more than $230 billion a year, Pickens said.
AAPG President Scott Tinker agrees.
“Significant increase in wind power could allow natural gas to be used for non-electricity generation applications,” Tinker said.
“America and the world need electricity,” he continued. “It is the fastest growing end-use sector for energy, representing around 40 percent of end use energy in the U.S. today. Wind represents a very real growth area for the power generation sector.”
Tinker also noted the challenges that “include public acceptance, limited geography to wind prone regions and the construction, transportation, commissioning, maintenance and decommissioning of turbines as wind grows into a larger segment of the power generation sector.”
“Typical large-scale coal plants are around 1,000 MW and can serve as base load. A typical terrestrial wind turbine is about 1 MW, and cannot base load because of intermittency of wind. Thus, storing and transmitting electricity efficiently are critical enabling areas for advanced research, Tinker said.
In the Pickens Plan ads, he cites the long-repeated facts of U.S. dependence on imports for energy and drives home the impact of dependence, saying “it’s extreme, it’s dangerous and it threatens the future of our nation.
“This year, we will spend almost $700 billion on imported oil, which is more than four times the annual cost of our current war in Iraq,” Pickens said.
“In fact, if we don’t do anything about this problem, over the next 10 years we will spend around $10 trillion importing foreign oil. That is $10 trillion leaving the U.S. and going to foreign nations, making it what I certainly believe will be the single largest transfer of wealth in human history.
“We are asking the American public to get behind this plan and to help us reduce our dangerous dependency on foreign oil. This has to be the number one priority in the country starting today.”
Pickens’ aide Jay Rosser promises that Pickens’ face will be seen on Americans’ televisions this fall almost as frequently as John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s.
“Neither presidential candidate is talking about solving the oil problem,” Pickens said. “So we’re going to make ‘em talk about it.”