T. Boone Pickens on Energy Policy

By kowalski Posted in Comments (27) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Very briefly, I'd like to alert everyone -- through a shameless act of cross-promotion (or what Mr. Pickens might refer to as "...merging with routes that were contiguous to me...") -- that there's a discussion going on over at TMR concerning T. Boone Pickens' energy policy suggestions. I've already commented in the thread in a number of different "voices" and so I'd like to Kowalski myself and mention it here -- for anyone who is interested:

T. Boone Pickens: Energy Plan.

I have several comments in the thread and I just posted my last one for tonight. Pickens' plan has a lot of things to be hopeful about and needs some fleshing out, I think. People should be thinking about it.

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The one thing that I want to know is what his angle is. Does he have an interest in a wind company? Does he have an interest in a natural gas company? Is he doing this out of genuine concern, which it sound like he his?

Wind would be an effective way to decrease the amount of fossil fuels required to generate electricity, although the cost could potentially prohibit large-scale investment, at least initially. One problem with wind, as was noted in the comments at the site where the video is posted, is that wind doesn't always blow in the same direction. Do turbine-heads(???) that pivot with the wind already exist, and is their cost prohibitive?

While I buy Mr. Pickens' numbers, I would like to know what those numbers would look like if he were to include nuclear and solar power.
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The best wind and solar sites are also far away from population centers and demand points, requiring construction of extensive transmission grids that will have their own environmental problems and will reduce net efficiency through transmission losses. Not to mention the direct impacts of devoting so much acreage to these modalities.

And Rightly So!

I agree that there are issues regarding lost efficiency due to transmission. What I disagree with is that the best spots for solar and wind are far away from population centers.

There are plenty of good spots for wind and solar that are near major population centers. For example, there are places in the San Francisco bay area that have wind turbines and are pretty much in between two major urban areas. Regarding places for solar, there have to be dozens of places in southern California.

I am curious as to what the impacts of devoting so much acreage to power generation would be.

The only reason I am using California in my examples is because I know the geography/topography. I'm sure that there are plenty of places in CO, WV, WY, and any other state that is very mountainous or hilly for wind power, and plenty of good locations for Solar in the west, southwest, and southeast.
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Of course there are impacts to using large surface areas for wind and solar, just like the impacts to using electric cars (manufacture and increased electricity use). I like the commercial that informs us that we will need all forms of energy eventually, so we may as well start planning for all these items now.

Recently in CA, the plan to produce a large desert solar project was put on hold for a two year environmental study. This system would also require extensive transmission. As I write, we are in a "flex power" condition where the CA electrical system is near overload. Clearly a state that could benefit from additional power sources.

Both solar and wind require back up power as batteries are not yet efficient enough to store this energy for when the sun is not shining and when the wind does not blow. IMO the only really clean form for the back up to take is nuclear power and there is an argument that if you simply build a larger nuclear plant you could omit the solar and wind fields entirely. There is the issue of storage of nuclear waste but this can be stored away from civilization and does not require much more than a transportation system to reach this location. (Truck – train?) If we are ready to consider putting a large section of one of our states off limits, why not set up waste storage on the site? What about combining waste storage and solar or wind? I/m open to it.

KC, still living free, or trying to.

But I like your idea of killing two birds with one stone by combining solar/wind and nuclear storage. Unfortunately, it would never get through muck that is the California Legislature.
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1) It isn't dispatchable - That means it isn't predictable and reliable. Look at most honest estimates of the efficiency of wind power and you'll see that most wind turbines actually produce at approximately 10% of their ameplate rating over any extended period. If you are going to power 20% of your electrical demand, you will have to keep more spinning reserve of diesel generators, combustion turbines (primarily fueled by natural gas or coal plants to provide power when the wind isn't blowing at the right speed (too high or too low). ANd if you're going have to build the coal or natural gas plants any way, it makes more sense to baseload them and use wind as a supplemental resource for peak clipping (keeping the cost of peak generation days down), which is how it's typically used now. Using wind as a primary resource makes load balancing a nightmare for load dispatchers and if the grid is underloaded or overloaded, it can crash.
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2) Wind energy is very maintenance intensive. The turbines are not terribly reliable and are subject to severe long term fatigue failures. In fact, it is getting much more expensive to insure large wind turbines due to some more recent spectacular structural failures.
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3) Transmission costs for large scale wind generation are very high. That is because wind turbines need to be built where wind conditions are favorable, which is not necessarily where the current transmission backbone is located. It's interesting that Pickens is talking up Texas for their wind power developments, because there have been quite a few articles lately in the utility trade press about the issues that Texas is having with the transmission costs associated with their wind farms. Coal, nuclear and natural gas plants on the other hand can be built near existing transmission resources.
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I've thought all along that the US should be phasing oil and natural gas out of electric generation, to preserve their use for transportation fuel, however, wind power isn't the right substitute.

has enough reliable wind to power the whole country.

Of course the real wind bonanza is Washington, D.C.--with the added bonus of vast quantities of methane. It would be nice to harness those gassy windbags--make them useful for something.

transmission or grid management. Neither do the solar advocates who state that we could install enough solar power stations in the Southwest US to power the whole country.
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Point 1) Trying to power the whole country from a single location is ridiculous for several reasons. the first is that a tremendous amount of electrical energy is lost in transmission. It helps to view electrical transmission losses as carrying sand in a bag with a small hole. If you don't carry the bag too far, very little is lost. Carry it too far and there is nothing left. It's the same with electric transmission. That's one reason we have nuclear plants (and other power plants)all over the country. If we didn't have transmission losses, we'd build them all in a huge cluster in a sparsely populated area and make emergency planning and licensing much easier.
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Point 2) Putting all of your power generation in one area (particularly wind power) leaves you subject to weather disasters. remember hurricane Katrina and it's effects on the price of gasoline? Can you imagine if all of the US electric grid was powered by wind turbines in North Dakota and a massive blizzard hit (North Dakota residents feel free to comment on local winter weather) and wiped out the majot transmission lines? All of the US would be subject to a massive blackout. Wouldn't that be special?
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Point 3) There is no such thing as reliable wind. The wind speed varies constantly everywhere. Wind turbines can only operate in a relatively narrow band. Too little wind and they don't make any power. Too much wind and they tear themselves apart. When optimum conditions don't exist, you still would like to be able to use electricity. Therefore, you will need to have backup electric power. What will we use for that backup? Nuclear plants? No, they don't operate well as cycling plants, much better to base load them. Coal plants? Maybe, if you buy the need to restrict carbon emissions (which I don't). However, if you eliminate the need to eliminate the need to restrict carbon emissions, a modern coal plant with emission control equipment still generates power cheaper and more reliably than wind or solar, so why make it backup power? We cetrainly don't have any shortage of coal. Oil or Natural gas? Both types of plants operate well as cycling plants, which is how many currently operate, but if the whole point is to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, why bother?
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If you consider all of these points, you'll reach the same conclusion as I have,that wind and solar can be valuable supplemental resources for electricity production and have a real role in reducing the price of peak load demand in certain regions, but can't be a major player in any realistic energy plan. Pickens is just participating in "rent seeking" behavior, but at least he admits his financial interests.



Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business … frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise.Ronald Reagan

T. Boone Pickens is set to spend $12 billion on the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas panhandle, but his water investment in the area — around a $100 million so far — could make an equally big splash for the ex-oilman. According to Business Week, Pickens owns more water than any other individual in the country through water rights in the Ogallala aquifer under the same land he is putting turbines up on. And now Pickens is working to get a deal to transport both his wind and water over to Dallas. “The wind is meant to sweeten the deal,” Texas State Rep Warren Chisum tells BW. “The big money for Pickens is in the water.”

The problem with his argument is the conflict of interest.

Come on, Steve, is this a capitalist country or a monastery? Read Adam Smith on the invisible hand--the only thing that has ever produced economic progress in this world is private interest. There's nothing even marginally wrong with Pickens wanting to make a profit off of his holdings, any more than there was for George Washington or Andrew Jackson to promote development that would raise the value of their lands. I mean come on. On RedState, no less. Sheesh!

Then all business is a conflict of interest.

He's invested a bunch of money into this wind farm from his own coffers and is pushing both windfarm electric and also natural gas vehicles.

He's not some clueless enviro-weenie.

He also doesn't believe that a windfarm in texas is GOING to feed electricity across the entire nation, only that the electricity produced will be sufficient for the power needs of the area.

He's a pretty smart guy, and a good guy. He isn't trying to get congress to mandate that the country be his customer like Al Gore has been trying to do for most of a decade.

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is looking for federal subsidies to make his wind power cost competitive and for state subsidies to make transmission practical. This is "rent seeking". Without the subsidies, I'd say flame on. With the subsidies, not so much. Particularly since, as I've noted in comments above I don't believe his plan as presented is practical.

And relies completely on the huge tax subsidies we provide to make it work.
He is developing the world's largets wind power grid, and the state of Texas is subsidizing the transmission lines for it.
Boone is always for Boone.

I think something more along the lines of this approach would do more to help reduce our reliance on foreign energy.

as to how they hope to accomplish all of the 12 points, particularly with a Democratic congress.

using wind to free up natural gas to run cars is a very inefficient use of natural gas.

"Pickens foresees as many as a third of the vehicles running on natural gas within only a few years. Julius Pretterebner, director of the Global Oil Group at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, says getting 15% to 20% of the USA's cars to run on natural gas — in some cases, in mixtures with other fuels in dual-fuel vehicles — by 2020 would be an outstanding achievement, and doing that will require federal support to expand the necessary infrastructure."

see the usa today article.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2008-07-08-t-boone-picke...

Update: T. Boone Pickens is writing more about his plan in the Wall Street Journal today:

My Plan to Escape the Grip of Foreign Oil

I think the plan has a lot of merit, and I'll say this for it:

Natural gas is the only domestic energy of size that can be used to replace oil used for transportation, and it is abundant in the U.S. It is cheap and it is clean. With eight million natural-gas-powered vehicles on the road world-wide, the technology already exists to rapidly build out fleets of trucks, buses and even cars using natural gas as a fuel. Of these eight million vehicles, the U.S. has a paltry 150,000 right now. We can and should do so much more to build our fleet of natural-gas-powered vehicles.

I run a small business that depends on the use of a small truck, a 14-foot box truck that is currently powered by a turbodiesel engine. In fact, you can see pictures of us replacing the old engine after it seized in my Flickr set, here. We'd like to have more than one truck, and if our business expands we will have to buy another, but here's the rub:

It's expensive to run. It's expensive to fill it up, and that expense is making a serious impact on my bottom line. And we know where the money is going. If part of America's energy independence plan involved a shift to the use of more natural gas in fleet and utility vehicles like the one I use to deliver my products, I wouldn't be opposed to it.

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and is trying to make Nat. Gas the next alternative fuel. I personally looked into converting my '07 F150 but the price was around $15K. That and the fact that there was only one refill station in my area made it prohibitive.

The biggest obstacle for conversions are the 3600 PSI Tanks required to hold the gas. They are expensive and generally do not hold much fuel.

New technologies are evolving that will remove the high pressure tank problem. One I read about used old corn cobs as a sponge that absorbed NG in a way that it held a higher quantity for the same area it occupied. Using this they expect to be able to design carrying tanks that are more like what we use for Gasoline instead of the High pressure tanks needed today.

Honda currently makes a factory fitted Civic that runs on NG and is available in the US. US Auto makers had some vehicles in the past that were fitted the same way but stopped producing them due to lack of interst.

NG in my area is around $2/gal equiv to Gasoline in my area. If you have NG in your home it could be as cheap as $1/gal. But the filler device for home filling is around $5K itself.

Yes, Pickens has a huge interest here in all of this. I hope he is successful in a big way. That would mean he helped all of us.

Huh by von

I have affection for T. Boone the same way that I have affection for a crazy uncle, and this plan generates the exact same set of feelings. T. Boone does have a point on a Ross Perot pie-chart level. Outside the world of pie charts, however, are huge transactional and capital costs in T. Boone's plan that he simply ignores. Such costs include not only completely changing the way we generate 22% of our power, but also building the infrastructure to design, create, sell, purchase, refuel, and support a heretofore nonexistent fleet of new LNG-powered cars. That's going to be a huge challenge for the car industry alone, given that it is moving to an electric/hybrid model -- not LNG.

So the plan, while interesting, is science fiction. I respectfully submit that a better plan would involving working wind into the existing trendlines. Instead of using wind to replace NG, add wind (and nuclear) to NG to generate more electricity, more cheaply, and offer incentives for R&D and development of electrically-powered cars. This will be a lot easier -- as well as much, much more in line with the free market -- than a "ten-year plan" to "fix" the energy and transportation markets.

For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act, and of acting, too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection.

is extremely corrosive to stock IC engines, making conversion to LNG fuel no easy, inexpensive trick.

not LNG, but I haven't looked into this in a while, since I don't have natural gas supplied at my house.

They've previously stopped LNG plants; imagine when you're going to have LNG depots every few blocks - it would make for some great special effects in the next disaster flick (or the next Al Gore movie), but I don't think the locals will be too thrilled at the prospect.

(And before you start dreaming of enviro-weenies being barbecued, remember that fellow RedStaters live in these areas too - though on the endangered species list, to be sure.)

And Rightly So!

...is the one most likely to be followed. More coal, more nukes feeding the grid. Smaller cars, scooters, and motorcycles in the very near term. Plug-in hybrids next, then plug-in hybrids with flex-fuel engines. Gas might eventually be $15/gallon, but you'll need a lot less of it.

One of my uses for nuclear plants is to generate enough energy so that blackouts don't occur and growth is not hampered by the failure of the electric grid. I have no problem with solar and wind supporting the grid where they are cost effective. (I don’t believe its cost effective when it takes 20 -40 years to pay back the cost of a system.)

With this kind of sufficiency (and gas and coal are fine too, just that the current hype over carbon use would result in a leaning toward nukes) electrical can be reconsidered for transport as well. I realize what a car/truck culture we have and if Kowalski needs another truck, well he needs a truck. But when I see train after train hauling freight across the country I wonder what the result would be if that diesel fuel were saved for trucks and cars while the train running on a fixed track used electricity.

I can likewise see smaller light rail systems expanding in cities. Where I live they could electrify the CalTrain and stop a major use of diesel on the SF peninsula. Its true that the legislature needs a kick in the pants to look at it this way, but fuel prices have risen “too rapidly” for the public not to notice and the pressure is on the obstructers (mostly dems) to get aboard. We are starting to see legislators attempting to take both sides of this issue, and they are wise to do so. The “drill and get prices down” movement is just starting to pick up steam. (yes, I see the pun)

KC, still living free, or trying to.

 
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