Blowing Hot Air Up Our Shorts

Wind TurbinesBy Paul Driessen 

T. Boone Pickens is being lionized for his “socially responsible” efforts to legislate national “clean” wind and solar energy mandates.

We’re “the Saudi Arabia of wind,” he argues. We need to “overcome our addiction to foreign oil,” 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 “mandate the formation of wind and solar transmission corridors, and renew the subsidies” for this renewable energy, America can achieve this transformation in ten years, he insists.

Pickens’ pitch makes good ad copy, especially in league with Senator Harry Reid’s bombast about oil, gas and coal “making us sick.” 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 nation’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, we’re offered bromides like wind.

Wind contributes more every year to our energy mix. However, it still provides only 1% of our electricity – 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 “wind belt” acreage equivalent to South Carolina. The noise, scenic impacts and bird kills caused by such an “eco-friendly” 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 – and still higher electricity prices.

A successful oilman, investor, deal-maker and speculator, Pickens’ large natural gas holdings position him to make billions from selling gas for backup electricity generation under his wind energy proposal – 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 “free market” investors, by putting the risks for this fanciful scheme on the backs of taxpayers.

In short, Pickens’ proposal is “true green” – in the financial and public relations arenas, though hardly in the ecological sphere.

Pickens says we can’t drill our way to freedom from foreign oil. But that’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.

  • Jimberg98

    To be fair, Pickens does support drilling in ANWR and the OCS. He doesn’t believe that we can continually drill our way out of our current problem, but he does believe that drilling now will help alleviate our problem until the other technologies come online.

    It’s true, though, that T. Boone Pickens and Al Gore are more concerned with making money than solving a problem.

  • bill-tb

    And then of course there is Pickens water project which depends on the uitlites right of way that the wind scheme of his provides. Billions in gains from water sales, PR from windy preposterous crap.

  • Rob N. Hood

    Oh, so now you neo-cons are against the profit-motive?? How hypocritical is THAT?! So only nuclear and carbon based ideas can occur and make all the profits they want….while getting subsiidies from tax-payer too, don’t forget !! ?? Not sound logic by any means dudes. Talk about weird science- you people are the weirdest.

  • No neo-cons around here.

    Nothing at all wrong with profit as long as it isn’t derived by force or FRAUD.

  • Bill Woj

    Not a problem, as long as the profit is based off the free market and not subsidized by the government. Just like the failed experiment with ethanol, wasn’t that supposed to make fuel cheaper and save the world…

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