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Power Earth The Almighty Buck

Pickens Plans On Wind Power 587

Posted by samzenpus
from the blowing-our-way-into-the-future dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "T. Boone Pickens (no relation) has launched an energy plan and social-networking campaign that calls for replacing Middle Eastern oil with Midwestern wind. The Pickens Plan would exploit the country's 'wind corridor' from the Canadian border to West Texas to produce 20 percent of the country's electricity and provide an economic revival for rural America. Transmission lines would be built to transport the power where the demand is and natural gas, now used to fuel power plants, would instead be used as a transportation fuel, which burns cleaner than gasoline and is domestic. Pickens proposed that the private sector finance the investment, which would result in a one-third reduction, equal to $230 billion, in the U.S.' yearly payments to foreign countries. Pickens has already invested heavily in wind, notably a planned 4,000-megawatt wind farm in his native Texas. 'We've got to get renewable into the mix. The problem for this country is that we're paying $700 billion — you heard that — $700 billion a year,' Pickens says. 'We can't afford that. In 10 years we'll be broke if we continue that.'"
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Pickens Plans On Wind Power

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  • What about??? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:37AM (#24129581)

    What about upright wind tunnels? They build a big structure a mile tall with plastic tarps 10ft above the surface for a few miles radius.

    Air warms up under the tarp and goes up the tunnel. Estimates put power at around 500 MW. It was a project around Australia somewhere but it was cut to 1/2 mile for some reason (I dont know).

    • Re:What about??? (Score:4, Informative)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:46AM (#24129647) Homepage
      That's really solar power, not wind. With wind power, the air is already moving before you heat it up.
      • Re:What about??? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by maackey (1323081) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:58AM (#24130199)
        Where do you think wind comes from ... magic? No. The sun heats up the atmosphere which causes a temperature (and thus pressure) differentiation which balances itself out by mixing with the surrounding atmosphere, thus producing wind.

        So by your definition, ALL wind power is really solar power, which makes your statement kind of contradictory. Not that it really matters, but since you were being a semantic pedantic, I might as well be too.
        • by mixmatch (957776) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @02:10AM (#24130287) Homepage

          Not that it really matters, but since you were being a semantic pedantic, I might as well be too.

          You can't be a pedantic, because pedantic is an adjective. The noun form is pedant.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:01AM (#24129783)

      What about upright wind tunnels? They build a big structure a mile tall with plastic tarps 10ft above the surface for a few miles radius.

      Air warms up under the tarp and goes up the tunnel. Estimates put power at around 500 MW. It was a project around Australia somewhere but it was cut to 1/2 mile for some reason (I dont know).

      There was talk about building one over the Senate but it's believed the upward rushing hot air would cause a massive drop in air pressure for the surrounding neighborhoods endangering public health. The current system of not requiring Senators to attend most sessions seems to be working.

    • Re:What about??? (Score:5, Informative)

      by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @02:55AM (#24130543) Journal

      I think you are referring to a solar tower [wikipedia.org]. They are neat, in that if built right, they could last damned near forever, potentially generating energy at very low operational cost.

      Additionally, since they operate on top of a heat sink with several days of thermal mass, they could easily be used as a 24x7 "base load" alternative energy power plant.

      However, they aren't particularly efficient, they haven't been well tested at larger scales, and present a number of fairly serious engineering challenges. The taller the central tower, the more efficient, but building a mile-high tower isn't cheap. And while the "several days" of base load could be turned into a week or more with the correct engineering, that raises construction costs significantly...

      Before solar towers can reach the critical mass of economic viability, other technology that's more (downward) scalable will probably win out first. Quite easily, IMHO.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DuckDodgers (541817)
        Right. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_Solar_One [wikipedia.org]

        The Nevada Solar One solar tower plant generates 134 million kwh per year, cost $266 million to build, and covers 400 acres (roughly 0.6 square miles or 1.6 square km).

        http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p1.html [doe.gov] The 2006 US energy use was about 4,060,000 thousand mwh. So to generate all of that with plants like the Nevada Solar One, we need 4,060,000,000,000 kwh / 134,000,000 kwh = roughly 30,300 copies of Nevada Solar One.

        That's $8 t
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by kesuki (321456)

          'The 2006 US energy use was about 4,060,000 thousand mwh.'

          "Given Nevada's land and sun resources the state has the ability to produce more than 600 GW using solar thermal concentrators like those used by Nevada Solar One.[12"

          well, for one state, Nevada's solar potential is pretty good. the reason why picken likes wind power is simple though, wind power is a lot cheaper than solar. wind is available closer to power consuming states in the north east, wind turbines generate income for farmers as well as uti

  • Get off his nuts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hdon (1104251) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:40AM (#24129611)
    It could *EASILY* turn out that Pickens is just another participant in the public relations campaign that big oil is putting on to convince Americans that big oil isn't out to get them.

    People are angry at the pump, and the more people who identify oil companies as enemies, the more people are exploring alternative fuels.

    While his emphasis on America's trade deficit and, apparently, the economy seems to be a new tune for an oil man, he has plenty of others with whom to share the oil-going-green spotlight with.
    • by volcanopele (537152) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:46AM (#24129657)
      I don't think it is so much a plow to make oil look more "green," but for the oil companies to position themselves to be the ones who provide the alternative energy sources. If we switch to wind energy, they will run the turbines. If we switch to solar, they will run the solar panel farms. Why get rich off just one energy source, when you can monopolize others.
      • by MikTheUser (761482) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @02:16AM (#24130313)
        That is why people should realize that renewable energies are best run independently. Solar panels on rooftops or a small wind farm can easily be paid for and operated by households or small communities and make them more independent of the energy corporations.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Of course. Decentralization of energy is the future and obvious best-case scenario, the ultimate refinement of how we generate power. A utopia compared to what we have today. Centralized power is ugly, dangerous, clumsy, and corrupt compared to a future where all technology is completely independent and decentralized. Centralized power lends itself to political corruption and only aids government in its continuous goals of more power and revenue. Decentralization would completely eliminate that justificatio

          • Re:Get off his nuts (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @02:14PM (#24139435)
            I don't think that's the ideal. There's a lot of duplicated effort, since we'd need both a grid and individual generators. That's lots of non-experts climbing on their roofs with wrenches to fix their panels, other extra maintenance, etc.

            I think the ideal power source is an underground wire going to your house, with all the electrons you need, and that costs you very little. Fusion power would be just like that: Massive, industrial, pointless on a small scale, and awesome.

            Let's use our rooftops for gardens!

      • Re:Get off his nuts (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rostin (691447) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @02:34AM (#24130439)

        A few years ago, I worked for the Evil Empire (ExxonMobil) as a summer intern. At that time, engineering students nearing graduation were a little nervous about working in the oil industry. What would happen to us if we spent most of our careers in oil, and then suddenly alternative energy sources took off? (It was kind of a dumb thing to worry about in retrospect. Major career changes are the norm.)

        To convince us to stick with the company, a senior engineer gave us a presentation. He said first of all that our fears weren't unfounded. All the oil majors anticipate major technology changes to occur during our lifetimes. We will have to totally change gears and move to oil sand, oil shale, nuclear, or whatever.

        The second thing he said was more interesting. ExxonMobil doesn't consider itself to be an oil company. As the parent suggests, ExxonMobil is in the energy business.

        That's not just bluster, either. I haven't tried to independently verify this, but the presenter claimed that ExxonMobil is the second largest holder of mineral rights to uranium ore in the world. The largest is the Russian government.

        • by sjbe (173966) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @03:08AM (#24130609)

          ExxonMobil doesn't consider itself to be an oil company. As the parent suggests, ExxonMobil is in the energy business.

          All the major oil companies started giving lip service to this about 20 years ago in response to a fairly famous critique of the industry. It's mostly talk however. If you look at ExxonMobil's last annual statement on page 19 it says "Fossil fuels are expected to continue to provide about 80% of energy in 2030". That does not sound much like a company that expects to be a big player in any other kind of energy any time soon.

          ...but the presenter claimed that ExxonMobil is the second largest holder of mineral rights to uranium ore in the world.

          I'm deeply dubious of this claim. One would expect to find some mention of it in the footnotes of their financial statements as it would be a material asset. While it's possible I've overlooked something I can find no mention of such mineral rights in their 2007 financial statements or annual report.

          • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @03:44AM (#24130763) Journal

            If you look at ExxonMobil's last annual statement on page 19 it says "Fossil fuels are expected to continue to provide about 80% of energy in 2030". That does not sound much like a company that expects to be a big player in any other kind of energy any time soon.

            Yeah, that's because nearly all their current assets are in oil, and they know that investors read those statements.

            Reality, folks! They'll do anything to make money. Most alternative energy is only profitable after short-term govt incentives. If they can arrange for solar energy that's in their reach and not their competitors, they'll go for it hard-core. If the technology is too "small" (easily implemented on a very small, local scale at low cost) they'll do everything they can to torpedo it.

            Picture it: You are part owner of XYZ gasoline-selling corporation. You are there with your partners. You profit when the company does, you lose money when the company does. You read yesterday that people can create their own gasoline out of used clothing. Do you (A) Try to promote the use/sale of cheap, used clothing? (B) pretend like you don't know what's happening (C) try to figure out how your company can remain profitability despite this new threat?

            If you answered (A) or (B), it's because you have never been part owner of XYZ gasoline-selling corporation. Real altruism only exists in the absence of interest in the issue at hand. You can only really be altruistic with regards to child care if you aren't a child care provider. You can only really be altruistic about paper production if you don't make/sell paper. You can only really be altruistic about alternative energy if you aren't an energy company.

            The actions of any large conglomerate with respect to society is like anyone: they'll work to amplify any cost they have to pay, and downplay any benefit they receive from others. (EG: you) Think about it: How much attention would you give if you drove your mother's car to the grocery store to get yourself groceries, vs. your mother driving your car to get her groceries?

            Only when you are of significant means and/or maturity do you not actually care about the difference. Pretending that *any* company operates otherwise is naivety.

    • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:51AM (#24129705) Journal
      I don't think so,I just think he is going where the money is. Yes,he made his money in oil,but anyone with a brain can see that the oil money is headed out of the country like a black hole on our economy. Mr. Pickens knows that domestic production of energy will not only help out our economy,but put more cash in his pocket as well. This is the kind of capitalism we need to see more of. The man sees we have a problem and develops ways to help us out of that problem while increasing jobs domestically and making a nice profit for himself. I think it is a great idea. But as always this is my 02c,YMMV
      • by lancejjj (924211) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @06:58AM (#24131625) Homepage

        but anyone with a brain can see that the oil money is headed out of the country like a black hole on our economy

        Excellent point. And it doesn't stop with oil. In fact, nearly all manufactured products are now in that same condition. Margins on such products are super-low; in the end, a huge proportion of the money you spend on your iPod, car, or even tooth brush is basically money that is leaving the country permanently.

        Oh, and it doesn't stop there. Food? Don't kid yourself - although the US has many farms, a huge proportion of our food comes from overseas. And most food grown here goes to migrant workers who send the money back home. Again, slim margins and foreign connections mean that the US is retaining a very tiny amount of the money spent on a product.

        And it gets worse. Many of the largest, fastest growing companies are now overseas, in China and India and other third world countries. The investment banks aren't stupid - they're investing more into overseas corporations than in US startups. If you're an American startup, you're at a gross disadvantage versus having your operations in India or China or Taiwan. And yes, even that mutual fund that your 401k is invested in is primarily about pumping the value of companies with foreign assets or foreign operations. Why invest in a US company that gets 5% return when you can invest in a Chinese company that is more likely get a 25% return? The only answer is "diversification", which is more of a self-insurance strategy versus a way to maximize return.

        At the end of the day, Pickens should invest wherever he wants to invest - its his money. But he is looking out for himself, as he is an investor looking for a money-maker in energy or any other sector. If he needs to convince the market that wind is a good investment, then he has already made his investment and is looking to pump its value for his own profit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by homer_s (799572)
          in the end, a huge proportion of the money you spend on your iPod, car, or even tooth brush is basically money that is leaving the country permanently.

          A huge proportion of the money I spend on groceries goes to Kroger, money I spend on computers goes to Intel & others, money I spend on healthcare goes to doctors - that money leaves my family permanently.

          Maybe I should grow my own crops, make my own microprocessors and perform my own surgery.

          It is sad to see that many people don't have the sligh
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kesuki (321456)

          "Oh, and it doesn't stop there. Food? Don't kid yourself - although the US has many farms, a huge proportion of our food comes from overseas. And most food grown here goes to migrant workers who send the money back home. Again, slim margins and foreign connections mean that the US is retaining a very tiny amount of the money spent on a product."

          the USA is the world's largest food exporter, but there is a problem here, it's the net value of food imported vs food exported. IF we export cheap corn, wheat, rice

      • by SydShamino (547793) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:35AM (#24132821)

        I think it's more likely that, as Mr. Pickens is a wealthy man, as opposed to a wealthy corporation, he's facing the reality that all humans face: he no longer cares about acquisition of wealth, he cares about being remembered after he's dead.

        This fundamental drive of human nature (for most people) is one of the ways that corporations will never be like humans, and is one of the reasons that corporations should never be given the rights of humans, since they can't face all the responsibilities.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yold (473518)

      Nah.... Pickens is already set for life, I doubt he is looking to financially profit from this campaign. He is a respected philanthropist, but he is old, and I think he is just throwing his money around trying to secure his legacy, much like Rockafeller did at the end of his life, and like Gore did at the end of his political career.

      We all know a silver-bullet is unlikely for the energy "crisis". It is a looming inevitability, but media scare-mongering has the average american thinking that something has

      • by zippthorne (748122) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:54AM (#24130163) Journal

        We all know a silver-bullet is unlikely for the energy "crisis"

        Incorrect. A silver bullet is exactly what we need.

        The problem at the moment (i.e. timescales of at least 10,000 years) is NOT a lack of energy sources. We've got the means to tap the water cycle, air currents, hot rocks, fissionable metals, trapped hydrocarbons, coal, extra-planetary radiation, ocean currents, angular momentum, and probably a dozen things I can't think of off the top of my head.

        The problem is that nearly every time we try to exploit one of those resources, the project is stymied by bureaucratic regulators more concerned with placating NIMBYs and BANANAs than facilitating a responsible plan to supply our nation's ever-growing need for energy.

        The silver bullet is not technological. It's political. We need only one thing: the will to start new energy projects. Nearly ANY new energy projects at the moment are an improvement.

        Let me be the first to say, "Yes, I do want a Nuclear Power plant in my back yard. Or a wind farm. Or a solar farm. Or a deep hole. or a Dam. Or even a coal plant (I'm not real keen on the coal plant, for aesthetic reasons but if we must, we must). And turn those ugly condos that replaced the tank farm into a refinery."

        Conservation is good too. It's just another angle, but it's not sufficient on it's own.

        Re: motorcycle parking, you don't even need to subsidize it, just splitting some spaces to allow more motorcycle parking closer to places is probably enough. But ban "cruisers" from the spaces. No bike that weighs as much as, costs more than, and gets worse gas mileage than a jeep wrangler ought to be treated like a bike.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Yold (473518)

          About the silver bullet, I didn't say we don't need it. I just said it was unlikely.

          Re: Re: motorcycle parking, yea anything over 1000cc would be off-limits if I designed this project. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about the effects of subsidies ;-)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by zippthorne (748122)

            Although subsidies tend to get the specific effect you ask for, like genie wishes, they also tend to come with unintended consequences.

            I just think it's better, in general, to go for solutions which don't involve direct subsidies. After all, you can always escalate to subsidies later, but it's very difficult to get government spending off the books if it turns out it wasn't necessary, or was actually harmful.

            And my point on the silver bullet is that it's not only necessary, it's inevitable. Eventually, en

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ricegf (1059658)

          Let me be the first to say, "Yes, I do want [energy sources] in my back yard..."

          Here, here! And let me add, I signed a mineral rights lease this year for just such an enterprise, given that my little acre of Texas sits square in the middle of the Barnett Shale [wikipedia.org], one of the largest natural gas reserves in the USA. The first drilling took place in our neighborhood recently (not related to my lease, though - that's a year off), and the gas is flowing. We had to search for the well, too - very nicely concealed

        • Re:Get off his nuts (Score:4, Interesting)

          by filterban (916724) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:47AM (#24134323) Homepage Journal
          Fantastic post. You're exactly right.

          Interestingly, while NIMBYs are stopping a lot of alternative energy sources, it's also the existing energy industry. For example, North Dakota is so rich with the right kind of wind for wind power (strong, steady) that you can build very profitable wind farms. It's considered the Middle East of wind power.

          Unfortunately, the state government is in the pocket of the coal industry, which is also very big in ND. Wind farms put coal workers out of jobs. So they don't let many wind farms get built and they don't give the infrastructure necessary to do so (such as a way to tap in to the power grid).

          Right now, if you have the cash, the location, and the government allows it, you can make a lot of money (passive income, even) building and running wind turbines. The key is getting the government to cooperate.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dutch Gun (899105)

        Media scare-mongering has nothing to do with those of us who feel the US has had an irresponsible energy policy for decades now - completely relying on foreign oil production while shunning home-grown alternatives. This includes wind, solar, biofuels, and other 'green' sources, but it's also stupid to overlook our own domestic oil production, such as off-shore drilling in the gulf and in Alaska. We're still very much reliant upon oil, a fact which is not likely to change for the next 20-40 years no matter

        • by Socguy (933973) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @08:25AM (#24132097)
          You forgot the most economical viable but somewhat paradoxically unpopular course of action: Get serious about efficiency and simply use less energy.
          • Re:Get off his nuts (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Foolicious (895952) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:59AM (#24133257)

            You forgot the most economical viable but somewhat paradoxically unpopular course of action: Get serious about efficiency and simply use less energy.

            What do you mean by "use less energy"? Like take cold showers? Ban hot tubs? Stop driving (or just certain cars like the evil SUV that no one in these discussions ever seems to own, but I see all over the freaking roads)? Or more easily adoptable things like using energy star appliances and them funny lookin' lightbulbs?

            Basically, I think it's only "the most" economically viable to a point. What I think many of the "Just use less" people really want is a complete change of lifestyles. I can indeed save money by turning down the thermostat on the water heater and furnace. I can save money by not driving anywhere and walking or bicycling. But these things also change my life and my lifestyle. I'm sure you're quick to tsk-tsk me and that you get a good belly-laugh out of my awful American selfishness, but it's a serious question that too many people ignore. How much conservation (specifically, preemptive sort-of-types of conservation) is necessary? I mean, I could get dead serious about conservation, but I'd pretty much have to start a new life.

            Of course, conservation can be achieved without impacting my lifestyle. As long as I can pay for it. Which then makes it NOT economically viable.

            Stay with me as I make a ridiculous example, in hopes of making a point. Let's say you buy an older house. Maybe even a mansion-sized house. First of all, I'm sure some here would scold you for buying a mansion in the first place because you should be willing to live in a small apartment like the Japanese or Europeans do. (They have faster broadband, too, after all.) Anyhow, for starters, you'd need to replace all the windows (ka-ching). You'd also probably want to reinsulate the attic space (actually not too expensive). Then you'd need to buy one or two new energy efficient furnaces and air conditioning units (ka-ching ka-ching). It'd probably make the most sense to also retrofit a tankless water heater system, with additional smaller tankless units at the points of use (KA-ching). Then you'd want to add solar panels and utilize some kind of net metering setup with the power company. Uh oh - it's actually a historic mansion actually, so first you have to deal with the municipal government to add an aesthetically-pleasing, non-obtrusive solar setup (waiting...waiting...finally, ka-ching). Then you want to add some wind turbines or even a simple windmill. But you can't because zoning doesn't allow such a structure in your neighborhood (no ka-ching). Then you can do the simple stuff like caulking, foam insulating, etc (mini-ching) and getting all new energy efficient appliances (ka-ching).

            Now I know I'm being a bit silly, but if you scale it down to a smaller home, you're also dealing with a smaller budget. It's easy to say "Just use less", but to get to the point where you can use less sometimes requires some economically UNviable steps, like those I mentioned above.

            Just my 2 cents.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Demarche (963386)
            Efficiency is fine and good but it doesn't solve anything in the long run. The world needs enough clean energy that we can afford to waste it. I don't see anything wrong with expecting the future to be a place where I can turn on a big-ass air conditioner without feeling guilty. Abundant, cheap energy is necessary for a modern economy to prosper, and I expect public policy to focus on responsibly improving my quality of life, not forcing me into some Luddite lifestyle.
        • Re:Get off his nuts (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tweek (18111) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:37AM (#24132871) Homepage Journal

          Media scare-mongering has nothing to do with those of us who feel the US has had an irresponsible energy policy for decades now - completely relying on foreign oil production while shunning home-grown alternatives. This includes wind, solar, biofuels, and other 'green' sources, but it's also stupid to overlook our own domestic oil production, such as off-shore drilling in the gulf and in Alaska. We're still very much reliant upon oil, a fact which is not likely to change for the next 20-40 years no matter what our current intentions are, or what investments we make in alternative sources of energy. Additionally, there's natural gas production, coal (we have the technology to produce clean-burning coal plans now), and nuclear power which are all real, viable power production systems that we could start building tomorrow.

          Sales taxes and incentives will not solve a fundamental supply issue on such a massive scale, so I don't see a point with punishing consumers even more than the current gas prices are already doing. No, I don't believe people are under the delusion that this will be solved immediately, but given that it's going to take a while to actually get fixed, I can see why people are anxious to see a real energy plan get underway instead of political pandering to various constituency groups to which politicians are beholden to (extreme environmentalists on one side, and big oil on the other).

          I'm sorry but I'm going to have to say that I hope gas prices reach $10/gallon and higher. Maybe then something will be done.

          Let me say this. I don't support the bogus "windfall profit tax" crap. I don't think it's the government's job to keep gas prices low. I support nuclear energy but not drilling for more oil. In fact, I don't support ANY fossil fuel expansion at this point. It's a limited resource. It's going to run dry. The problem isn't foreign oil. The problem is oil as a whole. Drilling in ANWAR or oil-shale or off-shore isn't going to make a lick of difference because the oil market doesn't conform to normal capitalistic "rules".

          Regardless of how long it takes or not to get the oil up and into our cars, the Middle Eastern oil companies have a captive audience in China and India and there is no motivation to lower the prices. Flooding the market with US oil does nothing to lower that price either since we seem to have no gumption to reduce our consumption here in the states. As soon as gas prices go back down, people will start buying SUVs again and Detroit will shelve all of the fuel efficient projects they might have going now. It wouldn't make financial sense to anything other than that.

          We've had 30 years roughly to think about this issue. Since Carter and not a damn thing has been done. Every time someone floated ideas about conservation or alternative energy, they were summarily dismissed as being a anti-capitalist hippy.

          And let's not forget that even IF we got the drilling restrictions lifted and started getting more oil out there, all of these figures assume our current rate of growth. That's just stupid. The amount of shit grows to fill the bucket. It's just some sort of unwritten law of physics. Cheap oil causes MORE growth thus making the supply last even less longer.

          And honestly, gas is the least of our concerns. We have alternate fuel sources and methods for getting us from point A to point B. There are a lot of other things made from petroleum that we DON'T have replacements for. Medical plastics and other things. I don't want to have a catheter shortage just because billy bob had to have the biggest SUV he could find.

          There seems to be this sentiment today that we shouldn't have to make sacrifices as citizens. And then I look at posters from WW2 that show Hitler driving a car and wonder how that would fly today.

          I'm not a hippie. I'm not a liberal. I'm not a republican. I'm not an environmentalist. I'm a realist.

      • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @03:18AM (#24130673) Journal

        I am amazed that you missed out public transport. One day, the people of the USA are going to have to get used to sitting next to strangers again. :)
  • Good to see (Score:4, Informative)

    by Slimee (1246598) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:41AM (#24129613) Journal
    Good to see someone up top speaking out for a change. I don't understand why more dont follow suit.... If you're a rich billionaire oil tycoon, you could invest in windpower and become a rich billionaire wind tycoon...There's no need to be so hell bent on oil
    • Re:Good to see (Score:5, Insightful)

      by runningduck (810975) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:49AM (#24129695)
      The reason why the entrenched oil industry is uninterested in alternative energy is because with oil they control the supply chain. Many alternative forms of energy are difficult to control. Without this firm grip of control on the industry any investment will ultimately lead to a net loss for these powerful few and a chaotic reorganization for all others in the energy industry.
      • Re:Good to see (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Atzanteol (99067) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @08:37AM (#24132181) Homepage
        Or maybe it's because until recently it hasn't been profitable? No. That can't be. You go with your "control" theory...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        The reason why the entrenched oil industry is uninterested in alternative energy is because with oil they control the supply chain. Many alternative forms of energy are difficult to control.

        That's the [theory|party line]. Reality however is quite different, as any effective form of alternate energy will have have to be deployed on a large scale rather than as individual installations. (Either local or personal.) Guess who has the capital to fund those large scale deployment?

        The simple fact is tha

    • Re:Good to see (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yold (473518) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:02AM (#24129789)

      He is already a rich hedge-fund manager. He wants recognition for philanthropy, not money.

  • by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:44AM (#24129629)

    In 10 years we'll be broke if we continue that.

          There are some that would argue that the US is already broke. The creditors just hadn't started calling yet. But they are now. Take a look at the S&P 500 over the past couple months, then zoom out and compare it to 2001. Yes, friend, right here is the abyss. Not later - right now. 1250 is where it stopped a few months ago. 1250ish is where we are now. After that it's 800 and we're back to the low point of the dot-com crash, and after that there's only the floor. It goes all the way down.

          No, America doesn't have 10 years. Oil is going to break America long before that. Europeans are paying $9 US or more per gallon of gas and although they don't like it, they manage. What happens to the US economy when gas doubles again? You're having trouble at $4/gallon.

    • by doC15 '-_-' (1322849) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:55AM (#24129731)
      Remember that many Europeans also have access to free healthcare and higher education. They also have much better public transportation systems in Europe, so they are not as dependable on gas as Americans. Also, cars in Europe are much smaller and much more fuel efficient than cars driven in America. Therefore, Americans are absolutely in trouble as the the gas prices keep rising.
      • by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:01AM (#24129785)

        Not only that, but America has been DESIGNED for the automobile. It's almost impossible to live in the US without a car - at least if you want any quality of life. The scale of the towns, the distances to supermarkets, restaurants, schools, workplaces boggle the mind. In Europe everything is fairly close unless you live way out in the country, public transport is, with few exceptions, excellent, etc. In the US you have to wait for buses that come every half hour instead of every 5 minutes, you have to walk 1km or so to the bus stop (unless you're lucky and live near a major route), and everything you need it at least 3 or 4 km away. It's amazing how you don't notice the distances in the US until you try to walk it.

        Yes it makes for nice, clean, tidy towns, with beautiful roads, ample living space, etc. But take away the automobiles and people are screwed.

        • Oh, there are certainly spread-out suburbs. But a lot of the older East Coast cities make a 100% public transit lifestyle possible, and in places like NYC, often dramatically preferrable.

          And other cities have made good investements to enable people to not need a daily car. Here in Portland OR, the mix of bike routes, buses, light rail, and FlexCar-like services keep a lot of people out of single-occupancy cars for the daily commute. A similar lifestyle is possible in Seattle. And we see companies like G

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mixmatch (957776)
          So get a motorcycle or scooter. Just because you it's too far to walk does not mean that you have to drive a 4-6 passenger vehicle everywhere you go.
        • America has been DESIGNED for the automobile...
          Um, actually, not always. A lot of our older suburbs and cities (Pasadena comes to mind) were designed for streetcars. America is filled with moderately intact streetcar suburbs [wikipedia.org]. They were designed for mass-transit and would work even better now that fifty years of technology could make streetcars that would be cheaper, lighter, and easier to maintain.
          What is keeping cheap, small, streetcars like this from being brought back? Well, among other things, there
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Atzanteol (99067)

          Not only that, but America has been DESIGNED for the automobile.

          Wasn't it John Adams who used to cruise around Boston in his Ford F-150?

    • by rcw-home (122017) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:28AM (#24129977)

      Take a look at the S&P 500 over the past couple months, then zoom out and compare it to 2001. Yes, friend, right here is the abyss. Not later - right now. 1250 is where it stopped a few months ago. 1250ish is where we are now. After that it's 800 and we're back to the low point of the dot-com crash, and after that there's only the floor. It goes all the way down.

      Stocks are cyclical [yahoo.com].

      1974 brought the S&P down to 1962 values - off 25% in less than a year too - and it was back up 25% in 18 months.

      The fun part is that at any point in time, no one really knows where the top and bottom of the market will actually be. Sure, you can cry wolf, and once in a while you might actually be right, but to come out ahead in such a situation you not only need to know that it's inevitable but know when. For example, many saw the dot-com bubble popping years before it did - but those who sold right then missed out on a lot of market gain.

      I think it's far more likely that our inability /unwillingness to pay off our national debt will cause further devaluation of the dollar (or increased inflation, however you want to look at it) over a long period of time - decades perhaps. I don't think anyone will call it hyperinflation, but it will be a period of relative economic stagnation. This devaluation will discourage foreign investors from using dollars or buying US bonds, which will eventually forcefully curb federal spending.

      It won't be a good time to sock away dollars under the bed, but it will be a good time to have a fixed-rate mortgage.

    • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:31AM (#24130001)

      There are some that would argue that the US is already broke. The creditors just hadn't started calling yet. But they are now.

      As a percentage of GDP, the U.S. debt situation [nationmaster.com] is about the same as Germany, France, and Canada, and is considerably better than Japan and Italy's. It's a common misconception that the U.S. is badly in debt. For some reason people keep looking at the raw dollar values. In raw dollars, the U.S. has huge economic figures because its population is significantly larger than all the other G8 nations, and its per worker productivity is the highest in the world. Once you account for this (by dividing by GDP), its debt load is pretty much in the middle of the other G8 nations.

      Take a look at the S&P 500 over the past couple months, then zoom out and compare it to 2001. Yes, friend, right here is the abyss. Not later - right now.

      While you're doing that, you might want to look at the FTSE 100 (UK) [yahoo.com], the DAX (Germany) [yahoo.com], and the CAC 40 (France) [yahoo.com]. They all do pretty much the same thing as the S&P 500.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Siener (139990)

        As a percentage of GDP, the U.S. debt situation [nationmaster.com] is about the same as Germany, France, and Canada, and is considerably better than Japan and Italy's. It's a common misconception that the U.S. is badly in debt.

        I've heard this argument many times and I think there are some serious problems with it. You are basically saying, it's OK for debt to grow as long as the GDP is growing faster.

        But you have to ask yourself, now much of that GDP growth is due to real long term sustainable industries and how much of it is just because of the regular cash injections from borrowing more money.

        It's like someone who's not worried about credit card debt because he knows he can get a new card to pay off the previous one next month.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nmb3000 (741169)

      Europeans are paying $9 US or more per gallon of gas and although they don't like it, they manage. What happens to the US economy when gas doubles again? You're having trouble at $4/gallon.

      This is such a popular thing to throw around, especially when US gas prices rise, but it's a completely bogus argument.

      The only reason Europeans pay $9 a gallon of gas because their government taxes it to that point [1]. In the UK, there is a road duty tax of almost GBP£ 2 on each US gallon. Additionally there is

  • Do It. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LoudMusic (199347) * on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:45AM (#24129645)

    It's really simple. Build windmill farms. Build solar collecting power plants. Build the variety of hydro electric generators.

    Run everything from electricity including water heaters, building heaters, and cars.

    Stop sending money to the other side of the world.

  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:46AM (#24129661)
    Sure, Pickens he has some business interests in his wind power generation, but who cares. It is clean, renewable, and nearly always available. (And it produces *Zero* CO2)
    Get some added transmission lines to the main grid from the 'wind corridor' and we up and running.
    -Pickens is putting his money where his mouth is and at the same time helping America, that is a true Capitalist and a Patriot.
    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:04AM (#24129811)

      > Pickens is putting his money where his mouth is and at the same time
      > helping America, that is a true Capitalist and a Patriot.

      Sounded like that when I first heard of this... but I actually dig a little before jumping into supporting something. Check his WSJ piece of July 8 and these two quotes from adjacent paragraphs no less:

      Quote #1

      "It will be accomplished solely through private investment with no new consumer or corporate taxes or government regulation."

      Quote #2

      "The future begins as soon as Congress and the president act. The government must mandate the formation of wind and solar transmission corridors, and renew the subsidies for economic and alternative energy development in areas where the wind and sun are abundant."

      Eh? Sounds like another corporate welfare client trying to get his grubby hands into my pocket.

      If wind were really economical he wouldn't need subsidies and wouldn't be waiting on Congress to quit masturbating and do something.

      News flash: Democrats LOVE these high gas prices, sure they wish the extra money were flowing into the Treasury instead of OPEC but they still can't work up any real displeasure at something that pushes their agenda so well. So why are they going to act?

      Screw the hippie crap with wind, solar, etc., we are outta time. Build nuke plants. Not in twenty years, not in ten. I want a plan to have enough nuke plants online inside of five years to make electricity cheap enough to change the economics in favor of plug in electrics. We have the tech to build a safe nuke plant now, waste disposal is still an issue but we have time to work on that problem if we can avoid western civilization collapsing. And eventually I'm sure we will perfect the greener alternative energy sources and not need so many nuke plants... or we get finally solve fusion and quit worrying about energy.

    • by mrbcs (737902)

      Sure, Pickens he has some business interests in his wind power generation, but who cares. It is clean, renewable, and nearly always available. (And it produces *Zero* CO2)

      I call Bull Shit. It may be "clean" when generating power, but how much gas is used to actually build, install and maintain these things? Indirectly they cause lots of co2 emissions and they aren't that great at generating power yet either. I'm surrounded by them and yet never see them running 24/7 though I have seen many windy days where NONE were funtioning. None out of hundreds.

      Wind, solar and hydrogen are all pie in the sky pipe dreams, they may fill a niche and help out a bit, but they will never rep

  • by copponex (13876) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:47AM (#24129667) Homepage

    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/12/doe_study_offpe.html [greencarcongress.com]

    Someone, somewhere, will claim that this does not help solve the gasoline problem. Please read the above link, which states that current off-peak electricity could power nearly 200 million PHEVs, according to the DOE. Adding green energy sources will greatly reduce pollution in urban areas when combined with ultra low or zero emission transit.

    We'd still have somewhat of an oil problem, but commuting can be covered by existing electric infrastructure.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:48AM (#24129679) Homepage

    20% wind is about right. More than that, and there are problems during periods of no wind. There's a study on wide area wind averaging (need source) which has a table of percent of installed wind capacity vs. percentage of time available. Even averaging over the entire midwestern US only gets something like 80-90% uptime.

    Base load should be nuclear, since that's all fixed cost. Peak air conditioning load should be solar. In between, whatever works.

    California needs a major effort to install enough solar panels to power the Southern California air conditioning load. The numbers actually work for this. The nice thing about solar is that you get the power during peak hours. You're guaranteed that bright sun and peak air conditioning load come at the same time. Wind is somewhat random on an hourly scale, and hydro is somewhat random on a seasonal scale.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Base load should be nuclear, since that's all fixed cost. Peak air conditioning load should be solar. In between, whatever works.

      Personally I'm biased in favour of whatever works instead of nuclear. Nuclear may work well for civilian purposes sometime but that will require real R&D and not just old 1960s Westinghouse gear with a slap of green paint to fool people into thinking that it's a product of the 21st century with living designers that know how it all works.

    • by seifried (12921)
      Or simply increase the cost of energy so people stop wasting it on things like air conditioning (having experienced the bone chilling level most US offices and houses are cooled to it's no wonder to me that power usage is so high). Here's a hint: 72 all the time is simply ridiculous.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by runningduck (810975)
      I personally think the cheapest and most effective solution would be to install non-functioning solar panels on every residential roof. That's right, non-functioning solar panel. All you really need is an elevated metal panel to act as a raised radiant barrier. This would likely reduce the peak need by 30%. Under roof radiant barriers can reduce loads by up to 10%. Elevating such a barrier above the roof allows most of the passing heat to easily exhaust improving effectiveness a few times over. Think
  • by mcsporran (832624) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:48AM (#24129687)
    Mr Pickens, with a national debt of about 30K per head, an imploding housing market, a possible depression and soaring exchange rates to other currencies, weren't you like, broke, 5 years ago ?
  • by Evets (629327) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:54AM (#24129727) Homepage Journal

    Generating electricity isn't that difficult. Generating enough electricity to keep an average american home electric-bill free is. I started looking into solar and found it was too expensive for too little of a return. Maybe a few years down the road it will be better.

    I'm sure a lot of people have done the same, and I'm sure a lot of people have also taken the next step as well and started looking into less expensive ways to generate energy. It seems odd, but very little attention has been paid to the home-electricity arena and there are huge opportunities for engineers and innovators. Building a radial flux generator is well within the capabilities of most do-it-your-selfers for less then a few hundred dollars and the only problem is how to turn it.

    Should it really have taken until 2007 before flutter belts came along? Is it really that hard to engineer a device that would take advantage of rooftop wind energy? I bet some products hit the market soon and some DIY projects start showing up online as well.

    But wind energy isn't the only thing out there. PV isn't the only way to extract energy from the sun. Gravity can be harnessed pretty easily. And there are plenty of other sources as well.

    If there's one good thing to come out of the gas price situation we are dealing with, it's that a lot of smart people will be looking at energy generation all over again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumRiff (120817)
      My brothers neighbor spent 60k on a solar/wind system for his house. We thought he was crazy, but then realized that tax credits and rebates and incentives from the electric company paid for almost half of it, so lets call it $35k owed. Now, he's working on getting an electric car for trips to the store, and converting his dryer and stove back to electric. Figures that the whole system will pay for itself in about 8-10 years, depending on how much electric bills increase over the next few years.. And he
  • This guy was one of the major contributors to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth propaganda campaign in 2004. I don't trust this guy one bit.

    Besides that, there's something just not right about a billionaire oilman who comes up with an energy plan and first presents it on television commercials - this is not the proper channel for discussing energy policy.
    • Re:Not trustworthy (Score:4, Informative)

      by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:10AM (#24129847)

      this is not the proper channel for discussing energy policy.

            He's got you talking about it, hasn't he? How hard will it be to push congress critters for the appropriate political backing when he's already convinced half the country that he's the man to follow?

            Oh he might be wrong, and he might be full of crap, but he's playing politics. And in energy, you NEED politics. Otherwise your multi billion dollar wind farm gets killed by someone who is concerned about all the sparrows getting caught up in the turbine blades... poor little birdies...

  • DOA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TopSpin (753) * on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:36AM (#24130039) Journal

    Difficult to imagine how someone with this much wealth, presumably obtained via business acumen, could be this naive. The enviros will not simply stand by and permit private interests to carpet the front range with propellers. No way, no how.

    They will claim bird extinction. The will claim the composites necessary to build the props are destroying the planet. They'll get a consensus of government funded scientists to assert that large wind farms cause devastating Atmospheric Thermal Depletion [nih.gov]*. They'll discover whatever "endangered" prairie critters they have too to prevent anything on this scale.

    Forget it.

    *should copyright that

  • Incomplete plan (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Politicus (704035) <salubrious@noSpaM.ymail.com> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @01:59AM (#24130205) Homepage

    These schemes always go something like, "Renewable, blah blah blah, then a miracle occurs and everyone lives happily ever after." Let's all sing the monorail song now.

    Natural gas is already a dead end. There's a reason why licenses for liquid natural gas ports have exploded and that is because domestic natural gas supplies are dwindling. Changing the transportation infrastructure to a fuel already in high demand at power plants is dumber than dumb.

    Wind is awesome. It's cheap. It's safe and there's plenty of it. With DC transmission lines, you can even alleviate the peak demand to peak supply gap. The main problem is that the energy density isn't there. You have to put up a lot of capital up front to get the capacity you need. Wind doesn't need subsidies but until fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies dry up, there isn't enough market incentive to get it going on a scale that's more than a science project.

    Hydro has already been overbuilt. There's no more energy to get out of that other than efficiency improvements at existing sites.

    This leaves us with various solar technologies. The problem here is that there's a lot of manufacturing to be done before you start to see solar contribute significant energy to the grid. It's too late to make the transition painless. That should have gotten under way with Carter's energy plan. We would already be the beneficiaries of a new energy infrastructure today, but Reagan had to go and rip out working solar panels powering the Whitehouse as a sign to the oil hooligans that the party's on. So no, the transition won't be painless. It won't even be bearable. It will hurt. My only hope is that the pain produces some real political change, hopefully within the framework of the constitution since I'd rather not see Americans shed blood however gratuitous the initial outbreak may be. That always turns ugly. From Tsar to General Secretary or King to Emperor, revolutions have little chance of settling on the median most people want.

    A good start would be to actually uphold the existing constitution by impeaching the evil doers. At least then, you're guaranteed not to have to endure some asshole on a "bring em on" trip ever again.

    • Works for me. (Score:3, Interesting)

      One of the moments that I truly became a radical happened in freshman year of college, in 1984. As it happens, I had been very aware of Carter pushing for more freight rail all through his term, a thing that the GOP fought tooth and nail. Well, he got some funding through anyway. Come '84, the results were starting to appear and, lo and behold, there was a big fat editorial in the Wall Street Journal trumpeting how much better off we were under Reagan because U.S. businesses were helped so much by this new
  • One or two problems (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cartman (18204) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @03:05AM (#24130587)

    1. Transmission of electricity from the midwest to California would entail tremendous transmission losses. By way of comparison, at present the longest transmission line in the country is the pacific intertie from northern Oregon to Los Angeles, which is an HVDC line; at only ~800 mi it loses 15% of everything it transmits.

    2. Most of the natural gas in this country is used for heating homes directly and would not be freed up for powering cars.

    3. Oftentimes there are "low pressure" weather fronts which span large geographical areas and last for several days, resulting in practically no wind for hundreds of miles. As a result, we would need nearly 100% backup capacity for the windmills. This could be solved using pumped storage but that would add to capital expenditure.

    4. Unfortunately, the areas which have tremendous wind resources in this country (and therefore wouldn't require long-distance HVDC lines) already generate almost none of their electricity from natural gas. Places like Illinois get their electricity from coal or nuclear. Thus, very little natural gas would be freed up for cars. It's in California that we get most of our electricity from natural gas but we have inadequate wind resources and HVDC lines to the midwest would entail the transmission losses I indicated above.

    5. HVDC lines from the midwest to california or NY would require large capital expenditures.

    ...Don't get me wrong, I think wind power will be an important part of our future energy mix.

    However I think an even better idea would be to replace all the natural gas-fired turbines in california with nuclear plants. Doing so would actually free up tremendous amounts of natural gas to use as automotive fuel, because california has a huge population, and it gets most of its electricity from natural gas which could be freed up.

    • by TheSync (5291) * on Thursday July 10, 2008 @03:56AM (#24130827) Journal

      Transmission of electricity from the midwest to California would entail tremendous transmission losses.

      That may be true, but California has the #2,#3, and #4 largest wind farms on the planet: Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm (690 MW), San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm (619 MW), Altamont Pass Wind Farm (606 MW)

      Of course, their combined peak power is less than equal to the base power of one two-reactor nuclear power plant (~2 GW).

    • 15 percent? (Score:3, Informative)

      by mark99 (459508)

      15 percent sounds way too high. Wikipedia indicates that around 3-4 percent for 800 miles is what HVDC power transmission should achieve (3 percent per 1000 km). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HVDC [wikipedia.org]

      Maybe they built a crappy transmission line there :)

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