Has anyone seen these commercials? I didn’t know who this guy was before a few days ago, but apparently he’s a big time oil guy with a plan to help reduce dependence on foreign oil with a combination of windpower (he calls the US, the “Saudi Arabia of wind”) and technology which allows cars to run on natural gas. On the one hand, his plan sounds reasonable. On the other hand, he’s apparently heavily invested in wind farms, and he was a big Swift Boat supporter so his credibility may be somewhat suspect.
So what’s the deal with this dude? Is he just a con artist or does he actually have something to offer here?
Pickens plan is nothing new, but what makes it possibly interesting is that he’s willing to invest an enormous amount of his own money into it. Kicking renewable wind power generation into higher gear is really a good thing for everyone involved except for the Audobon Society and people who object to the wind turbines “destroying” their sight lines.
However, I and the fuel supply folks I have working for me are very highly unconvinced by the “if you build it, they will come” attitude about CNG refueling stations. And I was personally very unimpressed by an interview with him on some cable channel which I saw in the airport yesterday, where he did not seem to have many ready answers to questions, and was sort of repeating the mantra of his adverts.
He says that spending about $1.2 trillion would replace 20% of our electrical generation with renewable wind power. Probably less than we pissed away in Iraq. Imagine the possibilities, and what that would do to our GHG emissions (something like a 6% reduction for the whole nation, IIRC, but I could be wrong, and it depends on your accounting…). However, he’s not correct when he says it’s a one-time cost, but then it’s understood in the industry that all power plants have O&M costs, and wind O&M costs are very low overall.
I would be much happier seeing this sort of wind power effort and a push for getting renewable energy-positive cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel underway, rather than burning more of a non-renewable resource. But even without that extra effort it would be a huge net positive for both the US and the world, so I’m not going to pick at it too hard. Twenty percent wind generation for the US would be an astounding achievement and have, on the whole of it, very little that is negative.
(And I’m glad he’s invested heavily in wind power - someone has to pay for these things. He could instead be investing in coal plants, after all. I don’t think that money is coming into this - he’s 80 years old and has $4B, as he himself says.)
T. Boone is a shameless self-promoter and he screwed a lot of people iback in his corporate raider days, but he may be on to something here.
Efficient natural gas and diesel engines (hybrids even) plus plug-in electrics, powering lighter-weight, but safe cars is the way of the future for personal transportation in spread out countries like the US. Natural gas is non-renewable now, because the price doesn’t make production from biological sources economical. With fleets of CNG personal vehicles on the road, though, biogas would look as good as biodiesel.
Yes, he’s investing in it and he wants you and I to invest in it. in other words, he wants us to buy his product.
Thank you, no. If I invest in renewable energy it will be in bio-diesel which can realistically replace all foreign oil imports. We have all the energy we need in coal and oil reserves for the next 100 years which is more than adequate amount of time to transition to better fuel sources. Coal can be converted to liquid fuels and In the process of doing that we can use the CO2 byproduct to grow Algae which in turn will produce bio-diesel. The coal to liquid process is viable for oil prices above $50 barrel and that mark has been met as a sustained number.
Pickens is using the political climate of renewable energy to get free advertising for his product.
Last thing I read - I believe in Discover a month or 2 back - said huge areas would need to be dedicated to wind farms to replace a fraction of our energy needs. But this may have been slanted as the article was advocating nuclear as our best energy alternative.
But I certainly welcome investment in and investigation into all potential energy sources to decrease our reliance on fossil oil and coal.
He can dump his electricity into ERCOT (or SPP, wherever) and people can either buy it or not. Or his competitors (NRG, Reliant, etc.) will outcompete him. And people can choose to buy the CNG cars - or not. He’s going to have a seriously uphill battle on that one, but provided his plan has severability, the wind power aspect of it is undeniably positive-sounding.
Independent of his CNG plan the investment in wind power could be extremely beneficial to the country. And you can’t power your house that easily with biodiesel, let alone retrofit 100M homes.
And the GHG emissions…?
F-T plants aren’t exactly springing up all over the place, although they get a lot of “gee whiz” press and talk from people not in the industry (read: people who don’t actually have the money or willpower to build the things). Wind power is proven right now.
And using the CO2 to feed algae to produce biodiesel is not GHG neutral at all by my understanding, because when the biodiesel is burned, the CO2 goes into the atmosphere, to be replaced with more CO2 from the coal.
No, wind power is not proven. It’s an overpriced eyesore that does not begin to address real energy needs. The same goes for solar power. Neither of them can operate continuously. And the use of natural gas for cars will drive up the cost of home heating.
Diesel engines are far more efficient and cleaner burning than gasoline engines. Less Co2 will be released. So in the short term it shifts the outflow of money to foreign countries, increases GNP which in turn increases tax revenue, and produces less Co2. There will be an influx of money in the economy, which will lower interest rates. It’s a win/win in the short term. In the long term we will have more tax money for research on real solutions.
According to this site, nuclear provides that percentage of our electrical generation for a cost of less than half that:
As you might guess from the insistence on writing out every last zero and the Vietnam/Apollo comparison, this is a very anti-nuclear site. If that’s what the figures as spun by the anti-nuclear-power side say, then it’s obvious that there is no legitimate public policy reason to prefer wind over nuclear as a major contributor (a niche contributor where circumstances are favorable, sure, but it just ain’t gonna support the nation’s electrical grid).
Of note, Pickens is also famous for his enormous donations (several hundred million) to Oklahoma State University. Much of his gifts have been centered on athletics (to be fair some in academics), and he is basically trying to transform them into an athletic power.
I like his idea of using natural gas as a transportation fuel. I think his wind farm idea is sort of plausible although I’m unsure how economic wind power is without government subsidies. It seems much more feasible to divert natural gas to transportation if you coupled it with an expansion in nuclear.
CNG (or GNC) is used down in this neck of the woods for cars, mostly taxis. It is cheaper, mainly due to the natural gas price in country being controled, to $2 and MMBTU (it is about 12-13 in the US). Even with the price discount it has not seen a huge uptake amongst the car driving population, the performance is lower, and it takes a lot longer (2-4 times) to fill up.
Now if there was a significant switch to GNC, the US drilling market is capacity constrained and you would expect to see the price of natural gas rise even further. Relying on more localy produced gas may stop some dollars heading overseas, but the increase in gas production has to come from somewhere and Canada would probably be one of the place.
Pickens also has a serious investment in water. I believe he bought up a bunch of water rights in Texas with the intention of transporting ground water across the state for a fee. I guess at some point, the days of cheap water will be behind us as well.