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Power Businesses The Almighty Buck

Pickens Wind-Power Plan Comes To a Whimpering End 346

Posted by timothy
from the go-long-on-stocking-coal dept.
Spy Handler writes "In 2008, billionaire T. Boone Pickens unveiled his 'Pickens Plan' on national TV, which calls for America to end its dependence on foreign oil by increasing use of wind power and natural gas. Over the next two years, he spent $80 million on TV commercials and $2 billion on General Electric wind turbines. Unfortunately market forces were not favorable to Mr. Pickens, and in December 2010 he announced that he is getting out of the wind power business. What does he plan to do with his $2 billion worth of idle wind turbines? He is trying to sell them to Canada, because of Canadian law that mandates consumers to buy more renewable electricity regardless of cost."
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Pickens Wind-Power Plan Comes To a Whimpering End

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  • Re:And so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @09:46AM (#34665328)
    I'm not particularly familiar with how he was planning to go about this, but it's a pretty good bet that a lot of the trouble came from subsidies. For reasons that don't make any sense to anybody outside the oil industry, oil gets heavily subsidized while renewable energy gets only a very small fraction of the government support.

    It depends where you are, here in WA state, we have a high gas tax which helps to level things a bit, but given the amount of experience that we have with oil and related technologies, it's hard to get the scale necessary to compete with oil.

    Alternative energy would probably be coming along a lot more quickly, if oil wasn't subsidized and oil companies were required to pay the full cost of the externalities that their product creates.
  • Re:And so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @10:32AM (#34665516) Homepage

    Thank two private organizations: the RNC and the DNC - which conspire to begin primaries in Iowa. The solution to obesity in America is single-day primaries.

  • Re:And so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by budgenator (254554) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @10:38AM (#34665534) Journal

    What I understand the biggest show stopper was the installation of the transmission lines to get the power from where it was generated to where it would be used. The Reason the transmission lines couldn't be built is because they couldn't get the right-of-way for it. The reason they couldn't get the right-of-ways is because they wanted the mineral and water rights as well; and the reason they wanted the water rights was to suck the ground dry and to ship the farmer's and rancher's water to the big-cities in aquaducts built under the transmission right-of way.

    Personally I think wind-power is over-hyped and uneconomical, yet it would be interesting to see one honest project happen to find out for sure if and why and by how much.

  • Re:And so (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FourthAge (1377519) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @11:10AM (#34665684) Journal

    Nobody has come up with a non-polluting way of making the rare-earth magnets required to make wind turbines. But still, it is felt that this minor environmental cost is more than compensated by the benefits of wind energy, such as they are. A small amount of pollution is easy to clean up.

    Wind is good, because we get a good energy to pollution ratio. Lots of energy for minimal pollution.

    But on the same terms, nuclear is even better, because you get even more energy for the same amount of pollution. And also you get a power source that's independent of the weather.

    So, regarding waste, my answer is "whatever you do, there will be waste, learn to live with it". Better to have the waste encased in glass and buried deep underground for centuries, than vented in vast quantities directly into the atmosphere, don't you think? Seems pretty obvious where subsidies should be headed.

  • Re:And so (Score:4, Insightful)

    by akboss (823334) <akboss@sudden[ ]k.net ['lin' in gap]> on Saturday December 25, 2010 @11:14AM (#34665710)

    The reason they couldn't get the right-of-ways is because they wanted the mineral and water rights as well; and the reason they wanted the water rights was to suck the ground dry and to ship the farmer's and rancher's water to the big-cities in aquaducts built under the transmission right-of way.

    This is correct. He wanted the government to use its power of eminent domain to secure the route and he wanted the land to build a pipeline. T.Boone already holds hundreds of thousands of acres of water rights to the Ogallala Aquifer. [quote] He’s T. Boone Pickens. Yes, that T. Boone Pickens. And he’s gobbling up water rights in Texas. Pickens’ new company, Mesa Water, has been buying up ground water rights in Roberts County, Texas - 200,000 acres in all.[/quote] He wanted the power grid to go to Dallas and El Paso and San Antonio....wonder why

  • Re:And so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ferretman (224859) <ferretman@[ ]eai.com ['gam' in gap]> on Saturday December 25, 2010 @11:14AM (#34665716) Homepage
    The myth of "unfair subsidies to the oil companies" is a nice canard from the alt energy folks, but the facts don't bear it out.

    Alternative energy companies want to lump in literally a century's worth of development and infrastructure and label this as an "unfair advantage" to the oil companies, when in fact it's just business. I'm sure that the buggy whip makers had all kinds of "unfair advantages" with roads suitable to buggies and watering holes everywhere when the automobile burst onto the scene--and yet it still happened. Why? Because it was *better*.

    The facts are that billions have been pumped into alternative energy (solar, wind, geo) and they are ALL promising technologies. Some day they'll be able to pull their own weight. I just built a 100% solar powered house--completely off the grid and I can tell ya first hand....this is some of the most immature and "not ready for primetime" technology you've ever seen. The government pumping money into it just makes it worse since the manufacturers don't have to make anything *better* that way, they just have to force people to *buy* it. This is probably why the most significant development in battery technology has been to ADD A FRICKIN STRAP so you can move the battery more easily....it's pathetic.

    No subsides for ANYBODY, ANYWHERE is the only way to go. Let the ideas fight it out in the marketplace. THIS will improve gasoline efficiency, advance solar technology, make windmills more durable and less prone to breakdown. Having the federal government back ANY of it is not in their list of duties, nor does it allow the industry to mature.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday December 25, 2010 @11:37AM (#34665810) Homepage Journal
    Without electricity the Amish take power.
  • Re:And so (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @01:39PM (#34666324)
    The myth of "unfair subsidies to the oil companies" is a nice canard from the alt energy folks, but the facts don't bear it out.

    What facts? You included none in your post. Since you claim the facts support you, but can't present any, that makes me think that the facts don't support you, but that if you tell the opposite of the truth enough, people will start to believe you. We call this Faux Syndrome.
  • Re:Atlas Shrugged (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @01:53PM (#34666384) Homepage

    No. I don't think the problem is people interfering with "Atlas" but not pandering to him.

    This is American business remember. It is likely that he was depending on some sort of subsidy or handout or other sweet special deal and that didn't go through.

    Infact, I am pretty sure that's what happened in this case.

  • Re:And so (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @01:56PM (#34666406) Homepage

    Excessive sugar is bad for you. Period.

    It doesn't matter what form it takes.

    The problem with sugar added to industrial foods is the fact that it is usually there to mask crap quality.

    Most foods that have added HFCS don't need it and are really better off without it.

  • by uncqual (836337) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @02:08PM (#34666454)

    If you add up the subsidies sunk in nuclear (from the good ol' times started with the Manhattan Project)

    It's not reasonable to count any weapons development costs as "subsidies" to the nuclear power generation industry. Even if a nuclear power plant had never been designed or built, these weapons expenditures would have still have been made.

    Without advances made for the space program, today's iPhone would not exist - would you therefore claim the iPhone was subsidized by the government via the Apollo program?

    It is probably, however, fair to claim that some costs of military intervention in the Middle East are subsidies to the petroleum industry because if that area didn't have oil (leaving mostly sand, rocks, and some horrific weather), we wouldn't care nearly as much about it and might just let Israel nuke much of it as a warning.

  • Re:And so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['rbo' in gap]> on Saturday December 25, 2010 @02:30PM (#34666548) Homepage

    I'm for no subsidies if, and only if, we include 'free pollution' as a subsidy.

    In my universe, the fact people can buy and freely burn oil for energy counts as a 'subsidy'. People should have to pay for that. They're using up a public resource.

    Same with rate earth magnets for wind and semiconductor manufacturing for solar and nuclear waste disposal. (1) Everyone should have to pay.

    Once all that is leveled out, we can look around and ask ourselves if we need subsidies. Possibly we do, possibly we don't, but it's impossible to see from here, where some power production industries can trash the environment and others can't.

    1) Although we've already done enough with nuclear protection...it's like, for some reason, with nuclear waste, we need a goddamn submarine door that can withstand 20,000 feet, whereas with, for example, coal ash, we have a screen door with holes in it and a broken latch. It's fucking absurdly imbalanced the lengths nuclear must go through thanks to a generation of idiots trained to jump when people say 'nuclear.

    If we treated coal like we treated nuclear we'd be running coal engines in a dome of air surrounded by a dome of vacuum, with massive scrubbers operating to recycle the air in the first dome, and it'd cost about a thousand times more. That shit is the only reason nuclear isn't 'competitive', but the solution isn't to subside is, it's to recognize that we can't stop the world because a nuclear plants raises background radioactivity by 5% for a square mile or whatever. OMG, two hundred extra people might get cancer...unlike coal plants, which regularly kill tens of thousands of people each year.

  • Re:And so (Score:4, Insightful)

    by foniksonik (573572) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @02:32PM (#34666552) Homepage Journal

    I'll play opposition advocate. If rural America is unsustainable economically without subsidies it should go away. If the international market does Crete demand even if only political then that should be incorporated into the market value for those commodities. If not, again, let it collapse. Super farms for grains and vegetables make a lot of sense, why not let them take over? The alternatives for small farmers is to buy land closer to cities and specialize in organic or other niche varieties or move more heavily into livestock where there is a higher margin, etc.

    It's not the public's responsibility to keep families on their ancestral lands so they don't have to change their lives or those of their children. It's also not our responsibility to keep Iowa's a viable state economy. It sounds like corn is sustainable but not at the yields which are being grown. So the farmers need to grow something else or do something else with the land which is currently growing subsidized crops.

    I feel little sympathy for farmers plight you describe. If it's not profitable it's because it is so heavily subsidized that the value of their labor is artificially reduced. Stop taking the handouts and the value will rise, competition will be fierce, many will go out of business but those who survive will have a viable business again.

    In short let the market do it's dirty work. The rest of us have to live with it, why should farmers be any different.

  • It wasn't the moving water that was complex.

    It was the fact he wanted water rights, aka, to pump water from the ground. From dry areas. That are already at the very fringe of not having enough water. And he wanted to take that water and sell it to the cities, the exact same cities that are currently fighting with water rights over the same areas.

    The regulators, quite sanely, said 'Uh, no'.

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