The Pickens Plan, Part Two: Partial Deconstruction

Wind Turbine sunset photo

photo: Getty Images

All I have to say is 'wow'. When I posted a video clip of T. Boone Pickens promoting his grand scheme for saving the US from energy dependency I promised commentary on it in a future post, but commenters have stolen most of my thunder in pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the plan. I guess that "post an intelligent and civil comment" button brought out the best in people. Kudos to TreeHugger readers. However their are some points still worth mentioning.

The Good: Pickens Bringing Us More Wind Power
The first is that, overlooking Pickens' dealings with water rights and some other non-entirely savory political maneuvering, Pickens plan for helping the US generate 20% of its electricity from wind power is undeniably a good thing. It's really part of the plan to use natural gas as a transportation fuel that seems ill conceived to me.

I'll leave aside discussing the notion that a better long term solution to the boondoggle that is the US private transportation fetish/imperative might be building a (gasp) public transportation system, though I do believe that to be true.

Ditto climate change as the folks over at Climate Progress have pretty much got that angle covered—basically that running a car on natural gas doesn't significantly reduce GHG gas emissions, and that natural gas is more efficiently used for electric generation than as a transport fuel.

Natural Gas Will Not Significantly Help US Energy Independence, Long Term
What I'd like everyone to consider is the energy independence angle. Substituting natural gas for petroleum may buy the US a measure of energy independence in the short term, but will not in the mid to long term. According to some researchers we are entering into a period where natural gas will start peaking , perhaps as early as 2010. Once that happens where will the US have to turn for natural gas? Some of the same regimes which Pickens wants to be rid of, plus some more: Russia, Algeria, Iran, just to name a few.

Bringing more wind power to the US energy mix is a great, and Pickens does deserve credit for that. However the part about natural gas needs to be reconsidered: There are better uses for natural gas, there are dirtier fuels to displace, it isn't nearly as good a transportation fuel as is claimed, it won't bring much greater energy independence, and it isn't really a viable long term solution to our energy problems. It's a band-aid at best.

T. Boone Pickens
Wind to Displace Natural Gas for Electricity, Natural Gas to Power Cars: The Pickens Plan
Water Pipeline Not Wind Power, Real Reason Pickens Can Build Transmission Lines

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