Pickens Plan

I was inspired by Gore's speech, but I have to say I was also semi-inspired by seeing T. Boone Pickens talk about his new energy plan on MSNBC a couple of weeks ago. I don't normally watch TV at all, but I do see it early in the morning when I make it to the gym (treadmill 30 minutes 3 times a week is the plan...) - anyway, Pickens happened to come on the show while I was there, and half of what he said made a lot of sense. 

Pickens has been pretty publicly investing billions of dollars in wind energy these last few years. His plan consists essentially of replacing the 20% of electric generation that currently comes from natural gas with wind, and using that natural gas to displace oil use in the rest of the economy (he talked about natural-gas-powered vehicles in particular). He did mention as a bit of a disclaimer that he's been an advocate for natural-gas for transportation for decades (and was doing so at BP - where I believe he still works?)

Interestingly, this fits in well with Al Gore's argument - another reason why Gore's timing was impeccable. Up until recently, the standard mantra against wind, solar, etc. has been that they supply electricity, not transportation fuel, and our most urgent need is for oil. Hence coal-to-liquids, oil shale development, and similar environmentally catastrophic proposals that have been promoted strongly in the face of $140/barrel oil.

But what Pickens did with his plan was to squash that pretty solidly - by developing wind you do free up energy. Not oil, but other energy sources (like natural gas), that can then be used for transportation. The trouble with Pickens' plan is that's a huge infrastructure and vehicle upgrade capital investment that's not going to be at all easy to push out. And will be really a temporary fix anyway, since we know natural gas supplies are no more infinite than oil supplies have been (and in particular, the US imports most of its gas too).

The actual transportation solution which should be on everybody's mind is not natural gas, but electric power. Electrification of transportation has also been more and more in the news lately, from plug-in hybrid cars and GM's plans for it's "Volt" vehicle, to ideas for light rail and transit improvements. I hope to have some more to say on all that soon.

So - T. Boone, thanks a bundle for moving the political space just that extra bit to where Gore's proposal sounds actually quite feasible and plausible. Maybe you two should work together a little...

Created: 2008-07-26 12:28:22 by Arthur Smith
Modified: 2008-07-26 12:28:45 by Arthur Smith