Friday, July 18, 2008

The Pickens Plan

Gas prices got you down? Tired of "fighting wars over foreign oil?" Have you ever heard of T. Boone Pickens?

On Fox and Friends this morning Pickens said that for the last 40 years Congress (both parties) has failed miserably when it comes to energy policy. He's got that right (though in fairness, I think virtually every energy proposal Republicans have made in the last 40 years has been blocked by Democrats.

Drill for domestic oil? Democrats say no
Build more nuclear power plants? Democrats say no
Build more dams? Democrats say no
Use more coal? Democrats say no

In the Democratic world environmentalism trumps everything. And now we're paying over $4 per gallon and some say it could go to $5 before summer is over.

Anyway, Pickens is an oil man (worth 4 billion dollars) who has an environmentally friendly plan to get off oil. He's certainly got my attention. Please check out PickensPlan.Com and watch his short video.


Robert said...

I’m all for looking into alternative energy plans, but we’re a long ways from Pickens’ plan making any sense.

First, I think it’s important to realize Pickens has a lot of financial interests in natural gas. So take his solutions with a grain of salt because he stands to gain a lot of money if it were to go his way.

Second, we currently have serious problems with the current infrastructure using wind energy. Wind is unreliable because if it too much, the grid can’t handle the power generation, if it’s too little, we brown out. There are very few places on Earth that has wind all the time.

When the wind isn’t blowing, you need to supplement the power with something else. Unfortunately, this means that up to 90+% of the grid must be subsidized with some sort of fossil fuel (like coal, oil, or natural gas). It’s wholly unrealistic to store that energy in batteries which means you’re building a double infrastructure. The only other alternative would be to covert excess energy into some other state (like hydrogen) for use during period where wind farms aren’t generating power (still requiring a plant to burn fuel).

One of the other kickers is that it takes a fair amount of time to turn up and turn down traditional power plants. This means it’s not really possible to suddenly turn up your backup plant without it already being online. In other words, it’d be producing “waste energy” until it was needed thereby ensuring that any savings you got as a result of wind farms was negated.

Frankly, wind farms might make sense for producing the energy to create something like hydrogen, but the cost to benefit ratio is pretty hard to justify. From a land usage, full time reliability, and ecological standpoint, there is no better power right now than nuclear. Any plan that ignores this fact is an expensive boondoggle.

Dennis said...


First, whether Pickens' plan is good or not has nothing to do with how much money he stands to gain (or loose) from the plan.

Second, you make some good points but I don't think Pickens is suggesting that we only use wind and natural gas. But wind is a very environmentally safe way of producing energy relatively quickly and Pickens has enough money to make it happen.

Third, Pickens himself made the point that his proposal cannot be all we do. His plan will only help to buy time before other more long term solutions (like nuclear power) can be implemented.

In my opinion we should drill offshore, drill in Alaska, build nuclear power plants, build more dams, start using more coal, wind and natural gas. Whatever it takes, just "get 'er done"!

Robert said...

I bring up Pickens bias simply because it reveals that he may not be fully forthcoming with all the ins/outs of wind generation and his interests in it. If you're looking to sell wind power, you're not going to shout from the mountains that it isn't going to work without it being almost fully supplemented.

Pickens is suggesting replacing a large part of our infrastructure with wind farms. What I'm saying is that wind power generation is difficult to effectively use for any portion of the supply due to the fact that it requires it to be almost completely supplemented by traditional forms of power generation.

The money we waste on building wind farms and power grids for them could be better spent creating nuclear power plants. The longer we horse around with immature technologies like wind farms the longer it'll be before we get our nuclear plants off the ground.

I'd prefer to avoid a future where in 20 years we're still no closer to a solution, but we have rusting eyesores dotting the land as if to remind us of our expensive mistakes.