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Debate: Pickens US energy plan

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What are the pros and cons of T. Boone Picken's US energy plan?

Background and context

The Pickens Plan is an energy policy proposal announced July 8, 2008 by American businessman T. Boone Pickens.
Pickens' stated intention is to reduce American dependency on imported oil by investing approximately US$1 trillion in new wind turbine farms for power generation, which he claims would allow the natural gas currently used for power generation to be shifted to fuel trucks, buses and automobiles. Pickens claims that his plan could reduce by $300 billion (43%) the amount the country spends annually on foreign oil. Though the plan has received broad public support, several important technical issues and some questions over Pickens' true motives have been raised. The questions surrounding this debate include some of the following. Is the Pickens Plan economically viable? Will it stimulate US economic growth? Will it depend on US government subsidies? Will Mr. Pickens profit, and does this matter? Is wind energy generally a good investment? Is it a good idea in the proposed Texas wind corridor? Can the electric grid handle it? Will it require expensive electric grid improvements? Is Picken's Plan for natural gas a good idea? Are natural gas cars a good idea? Will they be a good element in fighting global warming? Does the infrastructure exist for these vehicles? Is there sufficient political and popular support for the Pickens Plan?

Contents

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Economics: Is the Pickens Plan economically viable?

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Yes

  • The Pickens Plan will stimulate the US economy "What Pickens Has Right, What He Has Wrong". ClimateProgress. 28 July 2008 - "A big wind plan would be good for the economy, particularly in the nation's job-starved rural areas. Last time I checked, farmers and ranchers nationwide could earn $5,000 annually for each tiny piece of land they lease to host a turbine. There aren't many crops -- legal crops, at least -- that can earn that kind of money. In windy Nolan County, Texas, wind power has created 1,000 new jobs and is expected to produce $315 million in revenues. In rural Colorado, the Danish wind manufacturer Vestas is building two plants to manufacture wind blades and towers, creating hundreds of new jobs. The company reportedly is manufacturing in the United States because wind turbines built with Euros would be too expensive in the U.S. market at today's exchange rates; it may have picked Colorado because of Gov. Bill Ritter's plan to build a "new energy economy"."
  • That the Pickens Plan is for profit is a good thing "Critique of Pickens Plan misses the point". Force Change. 7 Aug. 2008 - "Will he make a profit if his plan is enacted? Of course, since he is the biggest developer of wind power in the country. But there is nothing inherently wrong with that[...]Rather, it is the very alignment of profit and national interest that has created the current environment where a proposal like the Pickens Plan or Gore’s 10 Year Plan are actually contemplated. It’s not like we just realized this year that global warming and dependence on foreign oil is a bad thing. Instead, it is that fuel prices have finally gone up enough to make it profitable to pursue alternative sources. This alignment of profit and public interest is our best chance to make a real shift in the way we power our country. To dismiss attempts at change because they have a profit interest related to them is to miss the biggest opportunity we’ve had in a generation to improve the environment and our country."


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No

  • Pickens Plan requires infeasible electric grid upgrades Kate Galbraith. "Pickens Plan Stirs Debate, and Qualms". New York Times. 5 Aug. 2008 - "Despite the high costs, Pickens touts the economic growth the expanded wind farm industry could provide...Even after the farms are built, though, a revamped—and extremely expensive—power grid would be needed...The prime locations for wind farms are in remote regions with limited or no electric infrastructure, so new construction would be needed to provide ways to move electricity from the farms to population centers...Pickens estimates the transmission infrastructure could cost another $200 billion—an effort he likened to the government-funded construction of the U.S. interstate highway system, which kicked off under President Dwight D. Eisenhower."
  • Pickens Plan favors technology over better market guidance John DeCicco, a senior fellow with Environmental Defense - "You can’t pick today what’s going to work in the marketplace tomorrow, the best you can do for policy is to set a general goal in terms of carbon reductions – put a price on carbon - and then let the market sort out what it [the technological solution] is going to be, not Pickens, not President Bush, not Senator so- and so. So, we ultimately believe in the invisible hand, ironically, even though we are environmentalists, rather than throwing a lot of money at some investor or somebody’s favorite solution – that’s the larger message here."[2]
  • Pickens Plan relies too heavily on subsidization Rob Bradley, founder and chairman of IER, issued the following statement - "The Pickens plan relies on special government mandates and subsidies to pick the pockets of American taxpayers and ratepayers...this plan is Robin Hood in reverse: taking from average Americans to subsidize wealthy political entrepreneurs." [3]


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Wind energy: Is Pickens' wind energy proposal a good idea?

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Yes

  • Wind energy is a renewable resource than can replace coal. Wind is a renewable resource that relies on the energy of the wind to generate electricity, burning no fuel and contributing no greenhouse gases to the global warming problem. Because wind energy can produce a significant quantity of electricity, in the United States, up to 20% of US electricity demand, it can be a significant renewable replacement of dirty coal. This will make a major contribution to the fight against global warming.
  • Pickens Plan wind turbines will produce significant energy Pickens Plan - "The Plan calls for building new wind generation facilities that will produce 20% of our nation's electricity and allow us to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. The combination of these domestic energies can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports. And we can do it all in 10 years."


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No

  • Better ways to cut oil consumption than Pickens Plan Vaclav Smil, a professor of environment at the University of Manitoba in Canada. - "What's the point of making natural gas cars?...Why not simply drive highly efficient, old-fashioned internal combustion engines? If everybody drove a Honda Civic, we wouldn't need oil from the Middle East...If everyone used a 97 percent efficient natural gas furnace, we'd be giving natural gas away...That could save much more than Pickens. Within ten years you could use massive natural gas savings to produce clean electricity and then use that to drive all-electric vehicles."[4]


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Natural gas: Is Pickens' plan for natural gas vehicles a good idea?

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Yes

  • Wind energy frees up natural gas to be used in cars. A significant quantity of natural gas is used to produce electricity. The Pickens plan would produce electricity from wind energy, which could be used to replace electricity produced from natural gas, thus freeing up natural gas to be used to power vehicles.
  • Natural gas burns more cleanly than gasoline in general "The Natural Gas Alternative". ConsumerReports.org - "CNG is much cleaner-burning than gasoline. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, CNG can reduce carbon-monoxide emissions by 90 to 97 percent and nitrogen-oxide emissions by 35 to 60 percent when compared with gasoline. CNG can also potentially reduce non-methane hydrocarbon emissions by 50 to 75 percent, while producing fewer carcinogenic pollutants and little or no particulate matter. When the 1998 Civic GX was introduced, the EPA cited it as having the cleanest internal combustion engine ever tested."
  • Existing gasoline vehicles can be converted to cleaner natural gas. Gasoline vehicles can be converted to run on natural gas. This means that heavy-polluting vehicles can be transformed into much lower-emission vehicles. This is key, as the millions of gasoline vehicles on the road currently cannot be immediately removed from the road. They must be made cleaner. Converting them to burn on natural gas is a good way to achieve this.
  • Pickens Plan exploits abundant US natural gas resources. Natural gas is abundant in the United States. It should, therefore, be heavily exploited.
  • Natural gas is about half as expensive as gasoline. Natural gas is much cheaper than gasoline. With gasoline prices high,t his make natural gas vehicles attractive.
  • The natural gas infrastructure already exists. Natural gas is already widely used in the United States. This means that the infrastructure for its use as a transportation fuel is already in place.
  • It is relatively cheap to convert existing cars to natural gas. New cars need not be built to run on natural gas. Rather, existing cars can be converted to run on natural gas, for between $500 and $2,000 per car.
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No

  • Pickens Plan wrongly diverts natural gas from replacing coal "What Pickens Has Right, What He Has Wrong". ClimateProgress. 28 July 2008 - "That brings us to the second part of Pickens’ plan and to Joe’s correct judgment that using natural gas to run vehicles rather than power plants is a bad idea...Because we need to reduce carbon emissions, because we don’t have limitless supplies of domestic oil and gas, and because we would be stupid to allow even more dependence on foreign resources, domestic natural gas should be treated carefully as transition fuel to a sustainable low-carbon economy. Given the growing urgency for climate action, it makes sense to use natural gas, the cleanest of the fossil fuels, to replace coal, the dirtiest."
  • Wind requires natural gas back-up (contrary to Pickens) "Pickens Plan Leaves U.S. Energy Security Blowing in the Wind". Institute for Energy Research. 11 Jul. 2008 - "Wind energy needs backup power that comes mostly from natural-gas fired power plants...Because wind is intermittent and unreliable, new wind generation requires the building of backup electrical generation. Most commonly, backup generation is provided by natural gas-fired power plants. Unlike coal or nuclear power, which can literally take days to heat boilers up to the appropriate temperature, natural gas turbines can spin up and produce electricity very quickly. Thus, the federal government should open new areas for natural gas production to meet growing demand for power, just the opposite of what the Pickens Plan espouses (“this is one emergency we cannot drill our way out of”)."
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General: Statements of general support or criticism?

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Yes

  • The Pickens Plan is generally a good idea Rich Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica, a national organization that promotes the use of hydrogen and natural gas vehicles. - "I think Pickens plan is brilliant, it is something we can do and we should do, argues".[5]



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No

  • The Pickens Plan is generally not viable. Clay Perry, of the Electric Power Research Institute - "I don’t think this is a viable plan."[6]


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Pro/con sources

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Yes


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No


See also

External links


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