July 22, 2008, New York Times, T. Boone Pickens Rides the Wind, editorial.
T. Boone Pickens, the legendary wildcatter and corporate raider, has decided that drilling for more oil is not the answer to the nations energy problems. President Bush should listen to his fellow Texan and longtime political ally.
The 80-year-old Mr. Pickens does not oppose drilling. Hes been doing it for most of his life. Nor has he become a born-again eco-warrior (a conservative, he helped underwrite and made no apologies for the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry). But he knows something that his friends in the White House wont acknowledge: that a nation holding less than 3 percent of the worlds oil reserves while guzzling 20 percent of the worlds production will never be able to drill its way out of its dependency on foreign oil.
He also considers it absolute madness financially and in terms of national security to be spending $700 billion every year on imported oil produced in volatile and in some cases hostile countries.
His answer is to develop wind power in states with steady, forceful winds (like Texas) and use it instead of natural gas to produce electricity (natural gas now generates about one-fifth of the power in the United States). He would then use the natural gas saved to fuel cars and trucks. He predicts that oil imports would drop by 40 percent and the country would save $300 billion a year.
There are, he concedes, obstacles. The country would need to rebuild the power grid to transmit wind energy from the Great Plains to consumers in the big population centers. It would need lots of service stations capable of selling natural gas. And automakers would need to produce cars that run on natural gas. There are about 8 million such vehicles in the world, but only 142,000 in the United States.
Mr. Pickens is putting his money where his ideas are, and in Texas he has begun assembling the pieces of a huge wind farm. He estimates the cost at $6 billion to $10 billion (his Mesa Power is the lead investor but his personal stake is unknown). He confidently forecasts that this wind farm and others like it will not only reduce the demand for oil but create thousands of construction and operating jobs.
Mr. Pickens concedes that people may suspect that his sudden enthusiasm for alternative energy is just another way to make Boone Pickens rich. But with at least $3 billion in the bank, he really doesnt need the money anywhere near as much as the country needs alternative energy and new ideas.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company