Last week I wrote about how T. Boone Pickens was winning me over with all his talk about how we’re addicted to oil, how it’s bleeding our economy, how it’s hurting American families, and how drilling is not the answer. I actually said “I love this guy”—and meant it—when I heard him say, “The United States is the Saudi Arabia of Wind Power.” Skip roses and chocolate, these words are the way to my heart. But it was the words that I liked. Not necessarily the man and not even his Plan.
As Joseph Romm points out on Grist, T. Boone Pickens’ energy plan is “half brilliant, half dumb.”
Half of it is great—the big push on wind power. Heck, even the Bush administration says wind power could be 20 percent of U.S. electricity. But the notion that we would use the wind power to free up natural gas in order to fuel a transition to natural gas vehicles makes no sense. Why would we go to the trouble of switching our vehicle fleet from running on one expensive fossil fuel to another expensive fossil fuel? Any freed up natural gas should be used to displace coal …
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Romm’s right, of course. And lots of other people cautioned me not to trust T. Boone and to dig a little deeper into his not-so-shiny past (let’s just say “Swift Boat“) before I get carried away. Fair enough. Anyone who touts one fossil fuel as a “bridge” to a clean energy future and says that natural gas—or coal for that matter—will “buy us time to develop even greater new technologies,” is forgetting that we already have greater new technologies. T. Boone knows this. He’s the one talking up the promise of Great Plains wind farms.
So, yes; it’s a song and dance. Or snake oil, in this case. But it’s also a real life illustration of a shifting economy—one where life-long oil men are buying up renewables for profit.
And, in any case, it’s music to my ears to hear a Texas oil man with a national platform and media campaign say that the era of cheap oil is over and that to be prosperous and independent again we need to break the addiction. Whatever his motivations and however flawed and environmentally backwards his master plan, T. Boone’s saying what we need to hear—with a notoriously ruthless and conservative businessman’s Oklahoma drawl:
America is in a hole and it’s getting deeper every day. We import 70% of our oil at a cost of $700 billion a year – four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.
I’ve been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of. But if we create a new renewable energy network, we can break our addiction to foreign oil.
And, frankly, maybe we need to hear it from guys like T. Boone. The effect, for many, is quite different when Al Gore says it.