T Boone Pickens?

I’ve seen several of the T. Boone Pickens ads on television – the ones that talk about “bridging the gap” in our energy needs – and I’ve wondered, from afar, who the heck this T. Boone Pickens is and what his plan calls for.

After the presidential debates this evening, I decided to take a gander at his web site, at http://www.pickensplan.com/theplan/

Watching the ads, I was definitely skeptical about the Pickens Plan – it just smacks of one of those friendly, good-for-all issues that ends up in reality as a confusing, misleadingly named stab in the back that the problem it pretends to support.

The website has the same feel to it.

And T. Boone Pickens is an oil man through and through.  But, he claims he’s done making money and he’s interested in what gets left behind for future generations.

Reading through the plan it doesn’t have any gotcha backdoors to it – at least as far as one can tell by the limited information available.  The basic tenants are to support massive infrastructure in wind power and at the same time, invest in natural gas vehicles (mostly for fleet vehicles, not so much for personal vehicles) as an alternative to gasoline vehicles.  This would act more to reduce dependence on foreign oil by transferring that need to natural gas but help less on global climate issues.

For ‘energy independence’ it would help reduce the amount of oil we need to import, and if we could convince other nations to do the same we could reduce the power other nations have gained (Iran, Russia, Venezuela) from the rising price of oil.

From an environmental perspective, it’s somewhat better to burn natural gas than oil and the support of wind power is great.  It’s not a long-term solution, but it doesn’t claim to be.  In the long term we clearly need to figure out hot to get away from fossil fuel engines.  But is this the bridge that’s needed to get us there? Does the cost/time/effort of transitioning fleets to natural gas buy us enough environmental benefit for this to be a really suitable bridge?

For more information about energy and how it impacts the environment and global policies, I highly, highly recommend a couple of podcasts:

The first is a Fresh Air interview with Thomas Friedman who makes a strong case for how our oil dependence has really empowered nations that we’d really prefer not to empower.

The second is a Commonwealth Club of California discussion with Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (search for her name on the linked page).  She speaks very eloquently about the importance of a comprehensive energy plan and all of the ways in which we are impacted without one.

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