By Paul DriessenÂ
T. Boone Pickens is being lionized for his â€œsocially responsibleâ€ efforts to legislate national â€œcleanâ€ wind and solar energy mandates.
Weâ€™re â€œthe Saudi Arabia of wind,â€ he argues. We need to â€œovercome our addiction to foreign oil,â€ by harnessing that wind to replace natural gas in electricity generation, and using that gas to power more cars and buses. If Congress would simply â€œmandate the formation of wind and solar transmission corridors, and renew the subsidiesâ€ for this renewable energy, America can achieve this transformation in ten years, he insists.
Pickensâ€™ pitch makes good ad copy, especially in league with Senator Harry Reidâ€™s bombast about oil, gas and coal â€œmaking us sick.â€ However, his policy prescriptions would impose vast new energy, economic and environmental problems.
Hydrocarbon fuels created America, gave us the technologies and living standards we enjoy today, enabled us to eradicate diseases that plagued earlier generations, and boosted our life expectancy from 50 in 1900 to nearly 80 today. They still provide 85% of our energy, and we could greatly reduce our reliance on oil imports if we would simply end the outrageous policies that keep our nationâ€™s abundant energy resources locked up.
We have enough oil, natural gas, oil shale, coal and uranium to provide power for centuries. We have a growing consensus that we need to drill, onshore and off. But partisan intransigence and absurd environmental claims prevent us from utilizing them. Instead, weâ€™re offered bromides like wind.
Wind contributes more every year to our energy mix. However, it still provides only 1% of our electricity â€“ compared to 49% for coal, 22% for natural gas, 19% for nuclear and 7% for hydroelectric.
Wind power is intermittent, unreliable, noisy and expensive (even with subsidies). Many modern turbines are 400 feet tall and carry 130-foot-long, 7-ton blades that slice up raptors and other birds. They operate only 8 hours a day, on average, compared to 85% of the time for coal, gas and nuclear plants. They rarely provide power during peak summer daytime hours, when air-conditioning demand is highest, but wind speed is low to nonexistent.
Using wind to replace all gas-fired power plants would require some 300,000 1.5-MW turbines, covering Midwestern â€œwind beltâ€ acreage equivalent to South Carolina. The noise, scenic impacts and bird kills caused by such an â€œeco-friendlyâ€ energy source defy imagination.
Building and installing these turbines requires 5 to 10 times more steel and concrete than is needed to build far more reliable coal or nuclear plants to generate the same amount of electricity, says Berkeley engineer Per Peterson. Add in the financing, steel and cement needed to build transmission lines from distant wind farms to urban consumers, and the effects multiply.
That means vastly more quarries, mines, cement plants and steel mills to supply those raw materials. But radical greens oppose such facilities. So under the Pickens proposal, we would likely import more steel and cement, instead of oil.
Moreover, since adequate wind is available only a third of the time, we would also need expensive gas-fired generating plants that mostly sit idle, but kick in whenever the wind dies down. That means still more money, cement and steel â€“ and still higher electricity prices.
A successful oilman, investor, deal-maker and speculator, Pickensâ€™ large natural gas holdings position him to make billions from selling gas for backup electricity generation under his wind energy proposal â€“ especially if drilling bans remain in effect, keeping gas prices in the stratosphere. Launching the enterprise with the backing of federal mandates and subsidies minimizes his financial risk and attracts â€œfree marketâ€ investors, by putting the risks for this fanciful scheme on the backs of taxpayers.
In short, Pickensâ€™ proposal is â€œtrue greenâ€ â€“ in the financial and public relations arenas, though hardly in the ecological sphere.
Pickens says we canâ€™t drill our way to freedom from foreign oil. But thatâ€™s true only if we keep our best prospects off limits to drilling. Open ANWR and the OCS, and the situation changes dramatically.
Read the rest of this article at Town Hall.