Memo to T. Boone Pickens: Your energy plan is half-brilliant, half-dumb

The Phone Call — based on a true story

Major cable network: What do you think of T. Boone Pickens’ latest energy plan ?

Climate Progress: Half of it is great, the big push on wind power. Heck, even the Bush administration says wind power could be 20% of U.S. electricity. But the notion that we would use the wind power to free up natural gas in order to fuel a transition to natural gas vehicles makes no sense. Why would we go to the trouble of switching our vehicle fleet from running on one expensive fossil fuel to another expensive fossil fuel? Any freed up natural gas should be used to displace coal….

Major cable network: I was hoping you liked the whole plan. That way we could use you on the show…. You don’t have any ideas of who might like the whole thing?

Climate Progress [Long pause, crickets chirp, the wind sighs, sea levels rise a few meters]: No. The people who will like the renewables part probably won’t be thrilled about the fossil fuel part, and vice versa.

Major cable network: Thanks. I’m sure we will find some reason to use you soon.

I am thinking about working that into a screenplay about a mild-mannered blogger for a great metropolitan progressive think tank who sacrifices his chance to be on television because he refuses to endorse an inane idea. I was looking at Matt Damon to play me, especially now that he has put on a little weight.

Seriously, though, it’s great that gazillionaire TBP is talking up peak oil and joining the wind power bandwagon (see “Wind Power — A core climate solution“). And it’s great he plans to spend tens of millions of dollars pushing this idea and delivering the mesage that $15 billion dollars for the wind production tax credit is peanuts compared to the $700 billion this country is going to spend on foreign oil this year.

But if you want to displace oil, the obvious thing to do is use of the wind power to charge plug-in hybrids (see “Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution“), multiple models of which will be introduced into the US car market in two years. Indeed, with electric utilities controlling the charging of the plug-ins, they can make optimum use of variable windpower, which is mostly available at night time. That would be win-win-win.

The Pickens Plan, however, is based on the utterly impractical idea that “Harnessing the power of wind to generate electricity will give us the flexibility to shift natural gas away from electricity generation and put it to use as a transportation fuel.”

Uhh, never gonna happen, T. Boone. Never. The most obvious reason is the gross inefficiency of the entire plan.

Right now, “We currently use natural gas to produce 22% of our electricity.” Most of that electricity comes from gas burned in combined cycle gas turbines at an overall efficiency of up to 60%. Why in the world would the federal government — or anyone else — spend billions and billion of dollars on natural gas fueling stations and natural gas vehicles in order to burn the gas with an efficiency of 15% to 20%? Natural gas is simply too useful and expensive to squander in such a fashion.

And then there’s global warming.

It now seems clear this country will have a major effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a price for carbon dioxide within a few years. That means all federal and private sector energy-related investments will increasingly be driven by the need to achieve reductions in carbon dioxide emissions at the lowest price.

Running cars on natural gas does NOT significantly reduce GHG emissions (esp. if there is even the tiniest leak in the whole gas delivery process). Running a car on electricity from the U.S. electric grid does reduce GHG emissions. And running a car on electricity from combined cycle gas turbines would have a far lower GHG emissions than running the car directly on natural gas — internal combustion engines are simply too damn inefficient. Of course, running a car on the wind power would eliminate vehicle admissions completely. Or using the wind power to displace coal plants would eliminate the emissions from those plants entirely.

So again, neither the federal government nor anyone else is going to spend billions and billions of dollars on natural gas fueling stations and natural gas vehicles.

A 2002 analysis of why natural gas vehicles (NGVs) didn’t catch on was published in Energy Policy, “Commercializing an Alternate Vehicle Fuel: Lessons Learned From Natural Gas For Vehicles,” (subs. req’d). The study concluded, the environmental benefits of NGVs were oversold, as were the early cost estimates for both the vehicles and the refueling stations: “Early promoters often believe that ‘prices just have to drop’ and cited what turned out to be unachievable price levels.” The study concluded, “Exaggerated claims have damaged the credibility of alternate transportation fuels, and have retarded acceptance, especially by large commercial purchasers.”

So a large-scale switch to NGVs by consumers is not going to happen no matter what T. Boone does. But he could help accelerate windpower into the marketplace and for that alone he deserves some kudos.

115 Responses to Memo to T. Boone Pickens: Your energy plan is half-brilliant, half-dumb

  1. Major Cable Network Attitude Translation:

    “We have made up our minds on this issue. Don’t expect any discussion or evaluation from us. Our allegiance is to our energy advertisers: seen all those car ads?, oil company ads? even the latest coal industry ads? Hell those bring in big money to us, so we have to work to support their industry.”

    “We are especially thrilled that T. Boone has kept his hands off coal. Now if he can only spend advertisement dollars with us.”

    Thanks Matt Damon for the great report. Stick with the Internet, Cable TV is biased.

  2. Tina Newell says:

    I have to give the guy credit, he has a plan. He is spending more money trying to educate the public than the government is. Many Scandanavian Countries are going green in innovative ways which need to be publicized. It all starts with a plan. Every part of this country has applicable renewable energy supplies which need to be locally customized. There is no one fits all plan in a land as vast as the USA. Wind is wonderful on the Great Lakes where I live (near Gale Street), solar is usable, yet unreliable, but geothermic works great around here, one of the local schools use it. It is all expensive and with little or no government tax breaks for changing to more energy efficient upgrades for middle class citizens, it is only now becoming more easily justified.

    My husband and I spent $10,000 upgrading our windows, insulation, and doors and received $500 tax break.

  3. Earl Killian says:

    Go to
    click on 2008, Honda, Civic CNG. 28 MPG (gasoline equivalent), yawn. 5.4 tons CO2 emissions (vs. 4.4 for Civic hybrid, 4.0 for Prius). However annual fuel cost was lower than the gasoline cars (but more than twice that of an electric SUV).

  4. Earl Killian says:

    Tina, TBP doesn’t need credit.

    Having a plan is worse than useless if it is the wrong plan.

    One reason Joe has identified plug-ins as the transportation fuel of choice is precisely for the reason you identify: it can be be produced by methods appropriate to each locality. It is the ultimate flex-fuel.

  5. Greg van Paassen says:

    Yes, kudos to Mr Pickens! He’s one of very few oil people who may make the transition to the new energy system.

    I wouldn’t rule out natural gas powered vehicles (despite also thinking they are no solution). “Constituency cost” effects in the minds of politicians will be significant. CNG and LPG are operationally quite close to liquid fuels — same infrastructure of fuel tanks, mechanical workshops, lubricants, catalytic converters. In voter terms: tanker drivers, mechanics, exhaust and cooling system manufacturers. Low constituency cost. Electric vehicles don’t need the same infrastructure, they need a different one; there will be much wailing about threatened livelihoods. High constituency cost. That easily trumps any geeky argument about thermal efficiency. So it’s at least possible some-one will propose NG, and be listened to.

    Given the large discount gas is trading at compared to oil (per Joule), I am just glad no one has (yet) suggested building synfuel plants using natural gas as a feedstock. We in NZ did this back in the 70s, after finding a big gas field. Happily, it was put out of business by the crash in oil prices in the 80s. Fingers crossed, let’s hope no-one does _that_ again. But electric vehicles bring their own problems.

    Running _one_ car on electricity does reduce GHG emissions, yes. Converting the vehicle fleet wholesale over to electric power creates a few problems, though. The main one is the need to more than double generating and grid capacity. The conventional wisdom is that 20% is wind+solar+wave power’s limit in the generating mix, without destabilising the grid. Since everyone will be in a hurry, the other 80% will be the easiest-to-build technology: coal and gas powered steam turbines. (Despite the existence of, for example, solar thermal plants.)

    Re the TV station: you’re doing the right thing: Bravo! Keep pushing the message that sound-bite “solutions” won’t cut it. We need to be adults now.

  6. Earl Killian says:

    Greg van Paassen, please don’t invent nonsense like “more than double generating and grid capacity”. You obviously haven’t got a clue about this, do you? You just made it up because it sounded good, didn’t you? The U.S. generated 4,065 TWh in 2006. Replacing the 2.77 trillion miles driven in 2006 at 330 Wh/mile would require 914 TWh. A careful study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, found “For the United States as a whole, up to 84% of U.S. cars, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) could be supported by the existing infrastructure, although the local percentages vary by region.” You probably haven’t got a clue why the existing infrastructure can support so many PHEVs without upgrade, but that didn’t stop you from posting something just because it sounded good, did it?

    You are also probably unaware that PHEVs are well suited to being charged by wind and solar, and that they can potentially raise the grid percentage of these technologies to 50% via V2G (google it).

  7. David B. Benson says:

    Looks like the G* meeting is going to go nowhere.

    We’re toast…

  8. David B. Benson says:

    G8 meeting

  9. Eli Rabett says:

    Natural gas running fuel cells in cars ain’t so bad, otoh with co-generation efficiency of using natural gas to generate electricity approaches 80%.

  10. Graeme Bird says:

    There is nothing wrong with T Boones plans. Gas is more expensive than coal or nuclear to use in electricity generation. Hence it is irrational to use it for this purpose. Once the gas isn’t being wasted in electricity generation it will be cheaper to use it for trash trucks and things. Its not right for all vehicles. Since the gas takes up a lot of room.

    The idea is to go much farther than what T Boone Pickens wants. And to have the nuclear replace all the coal for electricity-generation. And for the coal to be liquified using hydrogen generated via off-peak nuclear power.

  11. ChrisB says:

    During TBP’s interview on C-Span a couple of months ago, he mentioned that his ultimate goal was to have hydrogen powered vehicles be the norm. I think natural gas powered vehicles is his short term answer to move away from oil.

  12. Andy says:

    I think what we’re seeing with Mr. Picken’s idea about burning natural gas in vehicles is that he and many others simply don’t believe batteries will ever be able to hold enough power to make practical stand alone (without any sort of internal combusion engine) electric powered cars feasible for most commutes.

    This idea is bolstered by the quest others, such as Honda, have embarked on to develop hydrogen powered fuel cells. Why bother with a fuel cell if a battery will work? I don’t know enough about the science to really understand this, but if Honda is pursuing fuel cells then I too have my doubts as they seem to be ahead of the curve for the most part.

    Battery power, in my mind, is equated with photovoltaic cells. It seems they will never be good enough to get the job done. Please convince me otherwise.

    Myself, I want to drive one of those cars with a compressed air powered engine. That is just too cool. I’m right now contemplating how I can hook my dog up to a squirrel cage-type generator so she can run a compressor to power up my air drive car while I’m sleeping.

  13. Tom G says:

    Greg van Paassen….
    Are you an idiot?
    The infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles already exists.
    It’s called the wall outlet.
    And why do you think we have to double the grid and generating capacity?
    Most people work during the day…they get home at evening and plug the car in, with a timer if need be, and while everyone’s in bed, not using using any extra power, the car recharges its batteries.
    When people are in bed sound asleep they’re not using too many electrical devices other than those that need electricity for heating and cooling.
    It is true that at times the generating capacity is at the edge, during heat waves for example…but that’s where the efficency factor kicks in.
    Stupid simple things like turn off the light when you leave the room, CFL’s, adjust your thermostat, etc, etc, etc….
    Mind you the efficency factor shouldn’t have to kick in….it should be in place at all times!
    Another thing to remember…the North American auto fleet isn’t going to be replaced overnight by any kind of vehicle with a totally different means of propulsion. It will be a managable ramp-up.
    I would hope it’s electric sooner than later!
    My hope, dream perhaps, is that geothermal heat wells can be drilled beside existing coal fired generating plants and the burners can be turned off forever.

  14. Graeme Bird says:

    Batteries may one day have that sort of capacity. But they don’t now at the right price. Pickens has his eye on the ball. Even if batteries were that good we don’t have the nuclear output to justify these cars yet.

  15. Brewster says:

    Why do you think we need Nuclear output?

    Did you read Tom G’s post immediately before yours?

    The recharging of autos would be done largely at night, when other load factors are low… And Night is often when wind power is at its peak.

  16. Earl Killian says:

    ChrisB Says, “During TBP’s interview on C-Span a couple of months ago, he mentioned that his ultimate goal was to have hydrogen powered vehicles be the norm. I think natural gas powered vehicles is his short term answer to move away from oil.

    If this is what he believes, it is even more foolish. To make two fuel transitions in the vehicle fleet is really asking too much. PHEVs are really only half a transition, since they are compatible with existing fleet infrastructure, and the existing new fleet infrastructure (the grid).

    Moreover, hydrogen is a wasteful fuel. Today a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle has about the same greenhouse pollution per mile as a Prius (using NREL’s 11,888 gCO2/kgH2 estimate for steam reformation of methane). You can make hydrogen from renewable electricity by electrolysis. Today it takes 3-4x the electricity per mile to drive this way. If all of the aggressive goals for electrolysis and fuel cell efficiency are met someday, then it will still take twice as much electricity (i.e. twice as many square miles of mirrors or turbines) as driving directly on electricity.

  17. ChrisB says:

    I haven’t heard him talk much about hydrogen, lately. He mentioned it several times on his C-Span interview from a couple of months ago. Just relaying the information.

  18. Earl Killian says:

    Andy Says, “I think what we’re seeing with Mr. Picken’s idea about burning natural gas in vehicles is that he and many others simply don’t believe batteries will ever be able to hold enough power to make practical stand alone (without any sort of internal combustion engine) electric powered cars feasible for most commutes.

    Joe’s post explicitly said, “plug-in hybrids”, so why are you changing the subject to pure battery electric vehicles? Do you know understand that a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) can replace gasoline as a fuel with electricity for some large fraction of its miles using a small battery pack and no compromises on range or functionality? A PHEV with 20 miles of electric range (a PHEV-20) will cut gasoline usage in half, according to statistics gathered by the Federal government. PHEV-40s would reduce gasoline consumption by approximately 70%.

    Andy says, “Battery power, in my mind, is equated with photovoltaic cells. It seems they will never be good enough to get the job done. Please convince me otherwise.

    Absence of proof is not proof of absence, especially when the absence is simply ignorance. Battery technology is adequate (it could be better, but it has been good enough for a while). We have a 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV in our garage. In six years we have put over 80,000 miles on it. The range is 100 miles, and provides the bulk of our annual miles. Without an internal combustion engine, radiator, alternator, spark plugs, air filter, oil filter, oil changes, belts, carburetor, catalytic converter, muffler, or transmission, it is extremely reliable (the electric motor is probably good for a million miles). The batteries will probably last 150,000 miles. It uses 1990s battery technology (NiMH). This suggests that 1990s batteries are good enough (too bad Chevron won’t let Panasonic sell them for use in the U.S.) Modern Lithium batteries are much better (not laptop/cellphone batteries, but ones designed for safety and lifetime), and aren’t blocked by an oil company.

    Andy Says, “Myself, I want to drive one of those cars with a compressed air powered engine. That is just too cool. I’m right now contemplating how I can hook my dog up to a squirrel cage-type generator so she can run a compressor to power up my air drive car while I’m sleeping.

    This was probably an attempt at humor; if not you just proved you are clueless.

  19. Earl Killian says:

    Graeme Bird says, “Batteries may one day have that sort of capacity. But they don’t now at the right price.

    On what basis do you make this claim. When I crunch the numbers, PHEV-20s save the consumer money.

    Graeme Bird says, “Pickens has his eye on the ball. Even if batteries were that good we don’t have the nuclear output to justify these cars yet.

    Nuclear is about the second or third worst choice for fueling PHEVs. Wind is a very good choice; it is much cheaper and variable power levels are not an issue.

  20. Earl Killian says:

    Eli Rabett Says, “Natural gas running fuel cells in cars ain’t so bad, otoh with co-generation efficiency of using natural gas to generate electricity approaches 80%.

    Is “ain’t so bad” the standard we require? The greenhouse pollution from steam-reformation of natural gas to power a FCV is essentially the same as from driving a Prius on gasoline. Why would we wait 20 years for FCVs, only to make zero progress?

  21. Paul K says:

    The Energy bill co-sponsored by 43 Senators, currently being blocked from consideration by the Democratic leadership contains the greatest commitment ever to plug-in hybrid deployment.

  22. Bob Wallace says:

    That would be the “No More Excuses Energy Act”, would it not?

    The attempt on the part of big oil companies to latch on to more land while they’ve got a couple of friends in the White House. That would be in addition to the tens of millions of acres that they have access to now and aren’t using.

    They tacked on some pocket change for plug-in, etc. I would imagine. Noting serious, but gives them a talking point when they next run for office….

  23. hapa says:

    i still don’t think pickens wants a new grid or a smart grid or a distributed grid. his plan page doesn’t spare a word for solar or efficiency. so he’s staying in my “proof that wind scales up” file. why it’s so big and so good it creates a new corrosive special interest lobby! that maybe considers other clean tech a competitor.

  24. Ronald says:

    T. Boone Pickens has a plan. And he made his fortunes in oil.

    Being an oil man means he and his company are close to natural gas production and his company may have drilled and sold natural gas, I don’t know. And he is an advocate that we are at peak oil. So it is natural that he should think that something he knows about is the solution to these problems. If he made his money in batteries, he might have thought that would be the solution.

    Which all goes to a comment about how we solve our problems, with what we know. If all we have is a hammer, all the world looks like a nail. If you’re a success at drilling into the ground and selling what comes out for billions of dollars, that must be what will solve our problems.

    But as the article above shows, the efficiencies of Picken’s proposals are not as good as other possible solutions. As a celebrity, (and the millions to spend for advertising) Pickens gets the publicity being on news and entertainment shows.

    To really solve the energy problems and to inform ourselves of how to solve the problems, we should be listening to the engineers who are best able to explain the possible solutions and the better solutions. But we have celebrity millionaires on our news shows. When there was the invasion of Afganistan and Iraq, at least we had military generals on the talk shows. But I haven’t seen any engineers on talk and news shows discussing this. Maybe engineers and those who would be able to explain things better are to boring. Much better to review what clothes the Presidntial candidates spouces wear or other trival things. No wonder we don’t get public support behind solutions to our energy problems. We haven’t yet as a country learned how to talk effectively about our energy problems.

  25. Steve says:

    Good post, as usual. One question on the NGV / transport issue: what about NG for heavy transport only, not passenger cars. How do you feel about that?

  26. Ronald says:

    T. Boone Pickens thinks natural gas would be good to use to solve our vehicle fuels problems. If he had made his fortune in coal, he might be an advocate of Coal to Liquids program, not very greenhouse gas reduction friendly either. I suppose if he was a farmer, he would be an advocate of the ethanol grain food to fuel program. But he now makes money with wind turbines and his fortune was in drilling into the ground, so he’s an advocate of that.

  27. Greg N says:

    I sick of people who talk and don’t do.

    Look at what Pickens is actually doing. He’s putting his money where his mouth is – a lot of money, all going to wind. He’s spent $2 billion and expects to spend $10 billion.

    Look at what he’s SAYING about natural gas and vehicles. He talks it up, sure, with ambitious targets. He says that in ten years there might be enough wind to make a substitution, that there’ll be more CNG cars available in three.

    But look more closely at what he’s DOING about natural gas and vehicles. Very little! A few millions on R&D seed money, a few man hours on sketching out his ambitious plans. He’s too smart to invest substantial amounts in this before there’s more certainty it could work. It’s a paper plan, not a real endeavour.

    For all the talk, what he’s actually doing is heavily – very heavily – skewed towards wind. Personally I can therefore forgive him his investment in R&D, even though Joe’s analysis of why it’s a wrong turn makes perfect sense. What he’s doing in reality is excellent even though what he’s doing in his dreams is a bit misguided.

    I think he deserves a lot more praise!

  28. Duke says:

    I wondered what happend to Ted Kaczinski . He’s here blogging as Earl Killian. Ted, it will take more than all night sessions Googling trivia from your plywood shack and excoriating anyone with a different opinion to move us ahead in the enregy realm. Take your meds and allow other thoughts to be heard.

  29. John Hollenberg says:

    > I wondered what happend to Ted Kaczinski . He’s here blogging as Earl Killian.

    Yes, don’t you just hate it when Earl brings up inconvenient things like facts? If your only approach is to malign his character, rather than having a rational counter-argument, we have to assume he is correct in his analysis.

  30. You asked: “Why would we go to the trouble of switching our vehicle fleet from running on one expensive fossil fuel to another expensive fossil fuel?”

    Because he has a different goal than you — reducing our dependence on foreign oil, rather than reducing green house emissions. Yes, some of the same strategies can be used to achieve both goals, but replacing coal with wind does nothing to solve Pickens’ goal.

  31. Joe says:

    Eric — If I didn’t care at all about global warming, his idea would still be dumb. Consumers aren’t interested in driving natural gas vehicles. If they were, the effort wouldn’t have failed so miserably.

    He calls natural gas “cheap” and “abundant” — is is neither.

    Internal combustion engines are in efficient, electric motors are efficient. His ideas makes no sense on efficiency grounds.

  32. Graeme Bird says:

    “Why do you think we need Nuclear output?

    Did you read Tom G’s post immediately before yours?

    The recharging of autos would be done largely at night, when other load factors are low… And Night is often when wind power is at its peak.”

    No good. You are thinking of the prototype alone. You are not thinking about the suppliers and the suppliers suppliers and their suppliers and the whole supply chain.

    And attempt to go for batteries too fast will lead to cost blowouts.

    Far better is the research project for the air-car. There all you have is a compressor that can perfectly combust diesel. But that otherwise is as small as possible. And carbon-fibre tanks. It becomes immediately obvious that mass-production won’t lead to cost blowouts in the same way as all this battery production and stuff. And of course you would have the off-peak electricity compressor. The research project is greatly simplified and there is no obvious component that could be subject to cost blowouts under mass-production.

    Hence you have the possibility for a sort of Moores Law equivalent to get under way.

    You know if things are done right you would have your high performance liquified-coal vehicle. But you would still buy an air-car and leave the flasher vehicle in the garage most of the time to cut costs.

    The deal with the air-car is you are not getting the extra energy usage of latent power. Since a fairly small compressor running a lot of the time could pretty much serve for nearly any vehicle.

  33. Bob Wallace says:

    The AirCar is interesting, but we have yet to see a practical working prototype from Tata Motors, who own the technology.

    We do have working all-electric cars on the road right now.

    As for nuclear – it’s most likely toast. Notice how much private money is being invested in new nuclear? (Here’s a hint: Zero.)

    PV Solar and Thermal solar is positioned to take away the most profitable part of the power market, peak hour sales. Without that very high wholesale return there is probably no way that nuclear can recover it’s startup costs.

    We can get new solar of both types up and running in a very few years vs. a decade or two for new nuclear. Anyone considering spending billions today to bring nuclear to the market in 10-20 years is going to have to wonder if there will be any good paying market left for them.

  34. Davis Tucker says:

    I don’t think anyone likes the solutions we are going to implement. That’s the problem. That’s where peak oil has put us–where Boone Pickens, a guy who made his money in oil, has to advocate a renewable resource. Bet he never thought he’d see that day!

    if you want to learn more about peak oil/the energy side of things:

  35. Steve Ingalls says:

    T. Boone Pickens indeed has a plan, but according to this Business Week article:

    his wind turbine farm plan actually concerns water. He thinks that is where the real money will be in the future.

  36. Graeme Bird says:

    Of course the private money isn’t going into nuclear. The environmental movement and NIMBY has closed it down. Nuclear will be the major energy source in time but Pickens is saying what can be done right away. He can put up all the wind stuff in less than ten years. Whereas nuclear will need more time.

    Of course more nuclear needs to be started right away. But even a single plant takes about ten years. To have scores of them will take a bit longer. But pickens reckons they can exploit the wind corridor in less than ten years.

    You’ve got to roll these things out in the right profitable order.

  37. Ron says:

    Combined cycle plants may produce at 60% efficiency but by the time it travels down the wire to your plug the efficiency is around 33%. Add to that the conversion losses in the car motors and battery system and overall efficiency is about the same.

    Number one use of imported oil is for transportation. Any way that can be displaced is a good thing.

  38. Dave says:

    Thinking outside the box is required on this one. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to determine the political motivations from the scientific facts.

    Paying attention to what T. Boone Pickens says is an opinion from someone who is at least an expert on the current situation. He will make money no matter what the future is for energy generation.

    ALL cards need to be on the table!

  39. RedCharlie says:

    Yes, Pickens’ Plan is part brilliant and part stoopid.

    But I support the “Pickens Plan” 100% because I know the brillant 50% will succeed and the stupid 50% will fail.

    The good part–building out the windpower infrastructure–happens first, and happens with Pickens’ dough, only requiring a bit of government and industry cooperation. Solar thermal is a great idea too, and it’s encouraging that Pickens mentioned it, even if he’s not investing in it now.

    The stupid part is switching from one fossil fuel to another. According to Pickens, this part happens next, and happens as a matter of consumer choice (i.e. we all decide to go out and buy natural gas cars or pay to have existing cars converted).

    But this will never happen, due to two magic words that right-wing nutjobs have endless faith in, except when it comes to energy. Those two words are “free market”.

    Anybody check the price of natural gas these days? It ain’t any cheaper than oil, and if we go from 100K to 1Million natural gas vehicles in this country, it ain’t gonna get any cheaper either. Why do I need to go buy a new car or pay money to have my existing one converted to natural gas, when IT WON’T SAVE ME ANY MONEY??

    On a side note, somebody also tell me why power utilities would shutter their new, expensive, efficient natural gas generator plants, especially when those plants are perfect for the job of load balancing with wind power (i.e. the wind doesn’t blow all the time, so you need a reserve capacity that can come online QUICKLY–coal and nuke are too slow to ramp up, only hydro and natural gas really fit the bill here).

    So, sure, I support Pickens’ plan 100%. It’s painless, as the stupid part will fail–just don’t tell him that. By the time he’s dead or senile we’ll all have electric cars anyway.

    (And if you want to know when we get back to $20 oil, well dangit, can’t you read? The National Review has told us for the past 5 years that we’ll be back to cheap oil in about 6 months. Sheesh. Some people never learn.)

  40. RedCharlie says:

    Oh, and for those who may point out that NG is currently cheaper than oil per BTU. Since the great majority of the NG we use is produced and distributed domestically, we don’t have the infrastructure to import a lot of it. It’s effectively a domestic, not an international, commodity. This means the price is more volatile, as anyone who has heated their home with NG (like myself) has experienced first hand over the past few years.

  41. Gregor says:

    Your post is clever so it easily jumps the blogging hurdle, but nevertheless you’re a bit flippant. We’re talking about a very clueless country here, with no plans at all. And everyone on the spectrum who is given airtime to spout their worthless delusions about the situation appears not to be aware of their deep ignorance.

    You probably do, however, have a point about the arbitrage of NG–out of the power generation grid, to then use in cars as being inefficient. But what you miss are the positive externalities of building out the Grid in such a massive way, as Picken’s proposes. In other words, you and I would be better off advocating for the plan, because the Grid buildout would unfold first and more quickly than the switchover to NG cars.

    Finally I think the threshold has been crossed now, and naysayers carry some modest burden to formulate plans. At least Pickens is not an Oil Shale Clown, saying we can easily recover kerogen from Rocky Mtn Shale. I mean that is a big leap forward from the current duscission.

    Also, we need to drill for more NG and Oil. Not that it will do anything for price. But rather, we need to monetize it and use the royalites 100% for public transport.

    Finally, I see no solution outside of public transport, running off electricity. that means the Grid needs to be expanded–both the inputs and the network. So again, this gets back to the PickensPlan.

    Bottom line: it’s really not about NG cars. It’s about creating a better grid.


  42. RedCharlie says:

    Oh, wow,
    Gregor has a point.

    The Pickens Plan is only 1 part stoopid to 2 parts brilliant, not 50/50 as I had supposed.

    The two brilliant parts are one, windpower and two, BUILDING OUT THE GRID!! That’s kind of a stealth point that barely gets a mention on Pickens’ whiteboard, but as Gregor points out, it may be the most important part of it all, as windmills can only be used for windpower, but a better grid can be used for ANY source of electricity.

  43. RedCharlie says:

    Gregor’s point about the importance of building out the grid reminds me of the joke where during a blizzard you find refuge in a cabin with a fireplace, a woodstove, a candle, and a propane burner. You have only one match, so what should you light first?

    The answer: you should first light the match.

    So the first thing we need to do is build out the grid. That’s necessary whatever path we take to energy security and sustainability.

  44. Brent says:

    I guess I’m in the wrong place. I figured this idea was great since natural gas cars do exist and the bottom line is getting off our oil addiction from other Countries while trying to make ours better. You know, like wind and solar power…

  45. Andy says:

    So plug in hybrids are the way to go and will allow us to stretch out conventional oil supplies into the far future? Sounds good to me.

    I’ve been wondering why the proposed concentrated solar plants will take up so much space? I think the Bureau of Land Management is reviewing something like a 120 permit applications that are seeking permission to utilize over a million acres of federal lands. That would be what, 8,500 acres per plant or an area about 3.5 miles square for each installation? Is most of this empty space between facilities or what?

  46. James says:

    Hmm, I like what Ive seen of his Plan, His plan seems smarter the the BarkO’s Or McLame. Ive signed a petition this morning asking McCain and Obama to embrace his plan. You can go to the link if you want to sign the petition, or see more about the plan.

  47. Joe says:

    STOP trying to pick one energy source over another… The Clock has RUN OUT on discussion. 30 Years of discussion was enough. It’s time for action.

    We need to do all of it and do it ALL NOW!

    The winner’s of the Energy Independence Battle will eventually come to the forefront in about 20 Years.

    TAKE DECISIVE ACTION NOW on Energy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What is Decisive Action?

    Well… the ONLY Action that will get us out of this mess… The Dependence on Foreign Oil that is and will continue to DESTROY our Economy and Country. Plus HIGH and going HIGHER ENERGY PRICES is to…


    Conservation – Important part… but will NOT solve Problem by itself!

    Open UP all Areas NOW off limits to OIL DRILLING and I mean ALL: Deep water Continental Shelf, Anwar and Shale!

    DRILL… DRILL… DRILL… for OIL and NATURAL GAS in an environmentally safe way! This can be done safely… it is done safely everywhere else in the World! In Fact China will soon drill off our coast… thanks to Cuba.

    Develop Clean COAL Technology and other coal technologies

    Biofuels.. all forms should move forward… NOT just Corn.


    Hybrid’s Auto’s and Natural Gas Auto’s. All types of hybrid’s should be pursued!



    NUCULAR – Why haven’t we built a Nuclear Power Plant in the last 30 Years??? Why??? Ask you local representatives… Why??? Who Blocks this clean, cheap energy??? Who???

    Other New Energy sources… yet to be found.

    The Government should Take ALL the Barriers out of the way for every Idea to move forward FAST!!!!! GOVERNMENT and POLITICIANS get out of the way NOW!!!!!!!

    We ALL need to force our elected representatives to take ACTION NOW on ALL Forms of Energy Sources!

    Read How on this webpage:

    or copy and paste this link to your address bar:

    Is $4.00++ per Gallon Gasoline KILLING your Budget?
    Have your Electric Bills gone UP materially so far this summer?
    Wait until you see your Heating Bills this Winter!!!!!!

    We the People will be heard!

  48. Jack Strain says:

    Companies have been working on alternative fuel generator systems to produce elecricity for the residential markets for years. The results are about to hit the market, if they are not stopped by the large corporations. While CNG is an alternative, the advent of electric cars which don’t need to be recharged from the grid are the answer to the transportation crisis. Why are the asian auto makers ahead of the U.S. industry. There are currenly altenatives in the U.S. that allow an electric car to travel unlimited miles without being connected to the power grid. It’s only a matter of time before the U.S. auto makers realize that the asian manufcturers have taken over the entire market.

  49. John Hollenberg says:

    > Open UP all Areas NOW off limits to OIL DRILLING and I mean ALL: Deep water Continental Shelf, Anwar and Shale!

    > DRILL… DRILL… DRILL… for OIL and NATURAL GAS in an environmentally safe way! This can be done safely… it is done safely everywhere else in the World! In Fact China will soon drill off our coast… thanks to Cuba.

    This is nuts. The same business as usual, head in the sand approach. Contributes to Global Warming, doesn’t help us move toward carbon neutral renewable resources.

  50. Scotty says:

    There is a public Forum for discussions about Pickens plan :

  51. Neil Sapper says:

    Pickens controls a huge natural gas field in southwest Kansas/northwest Oklahoma. He attempted to run his natural gas conversion scam on past occasions when gas prices trended upward. Now, he is building a HUGE windfarm in Gray County in the Texas Panhandle. He also seeks to suck the Ogalalla Aquifer dry via water wells in Roberts County (to the north of Gray County). Hmmmm. Wind, Natural Gas, and Water: A Trifecta for T. Boone Pickens. Like most other so-called “energy plans” promulgated by oilmen, the BIG WINNER will be (drumroll): T. Boone Pickens!

  52. Earl Killian says:

    Ron said, “Combined cycle plants may produce at 60% efficiency but by the time it travels down the wire to your plug the efficiency is around 33%. Add to that the conversion losses in the car motors and battery system and overall efficiency is about the same.

    Where did you get nonsense such as the above? NGCC can be as high as 60% (you got one thing right), e.g. the GE H-System turbine. The grid delivers that power to you at about 93% efficiency. (Source: wikipedia: “Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 7.2% in 1995”). So now you’re down to 55.7% at your plug, not the laughable 33% you said. For converting from AC to DC, use 92%. For charging/discharging batteries, it varies a lot by battery chemistry. Lithium-Ion is quite good in this regard (NiMH less good). One could again use 92%. Thus the NG to motor pathway is something like 47% efficient. The efficiency of burning NG in an internal combustion engine is nowhere near this figure. The Honda Civic CNG only gets 28 MPG (converting NG energy to its gasoline gallon equivalent) according to the EPA.

  53. John says:

    The problem with the U.S. is very simple; 1) we all believe we have, by birth, the right for cheap energy and 2) over 90% of our transportation system is run based on crude oil. Their is NO silver bullet. The long term plan must be to focus on renewables and nuclear but we will never get to the long term plan if we don’t develop a short term plan that bridges the gap to the longer term solutions.

    The short term solution is as follows:

    1) Conservation – High prices will push conservation, but we need to quit believing that oil prices are going to go back under $100 per barrel. All the sub-$100 oil has been produced…all that is left is post-$100. We also can not simply sit back and hope that technology bails us out. Technology will come but it will take a whole lot of money and will take whole lot of time. In the meantime we need to conserve and use less energy.

    2) Diversify – We are totally depend on oil for transportation. Instead of blaming everybody(energy traders, the Middle East, George Bush, major oil companies, etc.) we must diversify so that we have alternatives. Natural gas vehicles in the short term is the only meaningful solution and technology is already here and working. Electric cars and hybrids are good too but they are still years away before they can be meaningful.

    3) Domestic – The rest of the world doesn’t care about the U.S. and we have relied on others for too much of our energy needs. The U.S. has the third largest natural gas reserves of any country in the world. We have already produced almost all of our oil. Natural gas is MUCH MUCH cleaner than coal and oil, is currently trading at half the price of oil and is domestic. We must convert our transportation system to natural gas in the short term while we figure out the long term solution.

    The big issue now is that Washington is looking for someone to blame and not looking for solutions. Neither Obama nor McClain have a clue as how to solve these issues. All I hear is a windfall profits tax. That is a joke…it didn’t work before and will only make matters worse. The U.S. goverment has no impact on oil prices other than to make them go up more than they already have. The only way is for every American to tell Washington to get the smartest energy people up to Capital Hill and figure out a short term plan and a long term plan. At least Pickens put out a plan that is “commercial”, the technology is already developed and doesn’t require other countries to help us out. And you know what he doesn’t blame the past 60 years of politicians and us(we elected them) for having NO energy policy. He is an 80 old dude who is looking to the future. We should take a lesson and do the same.


  54. Shane says:

    I like the plan because it provides a practical first step toward a real solution. I think you are being too ideological here. You need to remember that making any progress toward renewable and clean energy will need to come from a pragmatic approach. Would you prefer nothing over this plan? Or would you prefer some other plan that will never see the light of day because it doesn’t address those practical issues? One step at a time dude!

  55. dear mr pickens; as a 1930 oldster, i thank you very much for caring so sincerely, in behalf of all of us who just take, filling our gas-tanks at whatever the sign say’s, presuming our voice would be too weak to be heard re; alternative power-sources such as, wind-farms etc. all best wishes from this, american, who indeed appreciates your well intended; wake-up-call… sir, you are not just a fellow yelling into the wind… far from it… long may it be thus, til folks listen and act.. vty, joseph damery, aka; joe damery to, friends… july 9th at 1025, edst… god bless !

  56. Wingnut says:

    I’m not an expert on energy technology – the equation comparisons are all beyond me. What is not beyond me is that TBoone is the first oilman I have heard publicly state “We cannot drill our way out of this . . .” and we can’t.

    What is not beyond me is that at the current price per barrel there will be those within the oil industry who will insist we can burn oil for years and years, and in fact, there are those saying just that now.

    What is not beyond me is that with carbon measurements in the atmosphere approaching 340 ppm and climbing, “carbon neutrality” does not seem to ensure the possibility of survival for the species of humanity in the long term.

    What is not beyond me is that republicans who insist on doing nothing unless and until the Chinese and Indian governments can be brought along are the same individuals who would chose to sustain the current economic model regardless of the consequences. They are precisely the kind of individuals who coin terms like “externality” in an effort to eschew the consequences for their own behavior and that of their friends and ideological soulmates – all in the name of Profit.

    What is not beyond me is that the ship is sinking, though the cant of the deck is as yet barely perceptable. Those of us in steerage are not yet locked below decks.

  57. Earl Killian says:

    Wingnut, a correction: the CO2 level in the atmosphere is 385 ppm, not 340. That represents an increase of 100 ppm from pre-industrial times. The range over the last 600,000 years has been approximately 180-280 ppm.

  58. Wingnut says:

    Thanks for the correction. I couldn’t remember what the number was, but I was sure 340 ppm was ‘conservative’ – by avoiding an overstatement I sought to avoid the accusation of “hysteria”.

    Why is no one talking about the possibility of going ‘carbon negative’?

    Why is Bush/Cheney advocating a five fold increase in logging in Tsongas?

    WTF i say, WTF . . .

  59. carol reed says:

    I am thnkful at least someone like Mr. Pickens is stepping up to the plate to at least work to do something about our energy problem. I don’t see the press or national tv showing or talking about any alternative enery plans that are used in other countries. Instead of our so called politicians educating themselves about the oil dependency in this country and the problem with our energy crises all I see on tv are people whinning that they can’t fill up there big suvs’ and trucks. And as far as the mind set that I am reading it reminds me of people during the time of christopher columbus who believed that the world was flat and then here was one man who set out to prove them wrong. Go for it mr. pickens it is better then these people who are still stupid enough that they feel we can drill our way out of this problem.

  60. Walt Berman says:

    Well, I’m happy to see someone that can get things done suggest some kind of plan! TBP has stated that natural gas would be only a temporary bridge while developing infrastructure and technology for alternative sources. His wind idea is fantastic, I don’t think anyone can deny that!

  61. freddy says:

    Is Neil Sapper the only one that gets it? When was the last time a Texas oilman got religion and turned green? If his wind power plan is so freakin’ great, why doesn’t he just shut up, build the turbines, and start selling electricity? Why is he spending millions of his personal money to run ads on my local radio station? (Nowhere near Texas.) What is he trying to convince me of – that he has a great business proposal? I think not.

    An Australian company just passed on leasing Texas land for a wind farm. The reason: It wasn’t economically feasible to built wind turbines and make money at the same. TBP needs federal and state money to finance his dream, so his company can build the wind farms and make billions in profits. This guy is running a scam!

  62. freddy says:

    One thing that I missed. You’ll notice that according to the Plan, we don’t eliminate natural gas, we just use it elsewhere to replace oil. And who do you suppose will supply the natural gas? Could it be… hmmmm… Mr. Pickens? It’s a win, win for him.

  63. Earl Killian says:

    If the US diverted all of its natural gas from electricity to cars, it would power only a third of our miles driven. With a fleet of CNG vehicles the US would have to import NG to feed them. Let’s see, the biggest NG reserves are Russia (27%), Iran (16%), and Qatar (15%). Sound familiar? The proper use of the wind energy that TBP proposes is to power PHEVs. It would sure be a lot cheaper to the consumer, given the relative prices of wind electricity and natural gas.

  64. PJ says:

    I have worked in a fossil generation plant for over 14 years in the Chicago area.

    I can speak for this locality in this way. During the summer months during peak power use hours the grid here locally will be at maximum capacity and the light on the board goes red.

    What does this mean, dont even think about sneezing and tripping the generating unit.

    Peak hours are from around 9am to 3pm M – F.

    Not saying that adding plug in’s will take out the grid here.

    ComEd implements a plan were you save a few bucks on your electric bill to allow them to shut off your a/c at home when the demand is high on the grid.

    There hasnt been much added to the grid here locally except a few combined cycle gas turbine units. And a few of them companies went bankrupt with the price of natural gas increasing.

    Lets not forget that Midwest generation eliminated around 2500MWH’s by demolishing and leveling the Collins Generation Station in Morris IL due to the fact that a high tax rate in Grundy County caused the company to shut the doors there. All of the equipment was either sold off or scrapped out to China.

    There will need to be generation added to certain urban centers where the population growth and demand require it. Some locals can use wind, where it is available use it. Others can use a hydro unit do that where its feasible also. And others will require nuclear build it.

    Lets be realistic there is no one “genie in a bottle” to cure the situation we are in. This will have to be a systematic approach applied.

    To make this issue political is simply childish.

    We are Americans and we live in the best country in this world period.

    I think TBP has a great plan that starts the ball rolling can we do better probably……….but what are we doing today that is better than his proposed plan? We are typing away on this thread and doing nothing that is what we are doing.

    There is a call of action and duty for the country to start the journey.

    Lets get to work America.

  65. Earl Killian says:

    PJ, no one wants PHEVs to charge from 9am to 3pm. They are likely to charge from midnight to 4am. What does your grid look like then?

    PJ said, “Lets be realistic there is no one “genie in a bottle” to cure the situation we are in.

    That’s why Joe identified 14 wedges to address global warming, not 1 wedge. See
    for details.

  66. Earl Killian says:

    Wingnut said, “Why is no one talking about the possibility of going ‘carbon negative’?

    People are. See James Hansen’s work and also

  67. Bill Pasquina says:

    Look, we can all talk, write and generally flap our jaws about energy. Mr. Pickens reputedly has expertise in oil. Who are the experts on energy. Where can we listen to and evaluate their opinions on Mr. Pickens plan — which, at least, is a plan. I have heard nothing but opinions from politicians and radio talk show hosts — neither of which do I trust, expecially on this subject.

  68. Earl Killian says:

    Bill Pasquina, you may have heard nothing, but Obama does have a plan:

    Joe Romm, who runs this blog, also has a plan. Read the rest of the site. TBP is not the only plan to choose from, as you imply.

  69. Jay Alt says:

    I’ve not read every response= but would like to point this out. TBP is doing what the Congressional Democrats have proposed repeatedly this session. He is using the profits from his oil investments to expand renewable energy. That is indeed a good idea. Switching millions of autos over to run on natural gas isn’t, for the reasons Dr. Romm explains.

  70. freddy says:

    Hey Bill, you don’t trust politicians or talk show hosts, but when was the last time you trusted a Texas oilman, billionaire to set this nation’s energy policy? Why start trusting them now?

  71. Paul says:

    Boone is right. Use nat gas in vehicles.

    But we waste this precious resource in electric power plants. Nuclear would solve this problem. It replaces the nat gas and filthier coal plants.

    And when the battery technology is realized…we can have the battery cars many fantasize about.

  72. Earl Killian says:

    Paul says, “Use nat gas in vehicles. But we waste this precious resource in electric power plants.

    This makes no sense. Natural gas combustion in an electric power plant is up to 60% efficient. Burn it in an internal combustion engine and it is only 20% efficient.

    With one m^3 of natural gas the Honda Civic CNG can go 8 miles. If you instead turn that natural gas into electricity at 60% efficiency you get 10.6 kWh at the power plant, and 9.9 kWh at your garage plug. A PHEV could go 36.5 miles on that much plug energy. Burning natural gas in internal combustion engines is a waste.

    Paul says, “And when the battery technology is realized…

    Battery technology is more than sufficient to build BEVs and PHEVs. You have been misinformed.

  73. Paul says:

    Oh, okay, Earl. You’re the expert. I’m just a working stiff paying $5 a gallon.

  74. Paul says:

    I’m just a working sucker. But there are millions like me, waking up to the Sierra Club shills. We will revolt and toss them all out of office.

  75. Earl Killian says:

    Paul says, “I’m just a working stiff paying $5 a gallon.

    Unfortunately that is the result of bad decisions made starting decades ago (first with Reagan, then with Gingrich). There is almost nothing that can be done to fix it in the short term other than a recession, which we don’t want.

    The most important thing we can do to fix it in the mid-term is raise CAFE standards further. The EPA was about to do that, but the White House blocked it. Bush is completely AWOL on the gasoline price issue (he’s the AWOL expert). Now we’ll have to wait until January 2009 to let the EPA the EPA plan go ahead. That’s a lot of wasted time on this issue.

  76. Daprez says:

    Electric cars sound like a great solution until you actually drive one.
    Major major major improvements needed in delivering an electric car that suburban folk will actually use. Remember they have 2.4 kids to take to school, soccer practice, and all their playdates.

  77. Daprez says:

    CO2 at 385 PPM concentration is still only a trace gas in the atmosphere. Also when talking about CO2 lets remember that it is one of the three components needed for photosynthesis.

  78. Nuts says:

    Earl – If you want to sway people to your point of view learn how to be tactful. Even if all your facts are correct (and relevant) seething arrogance turns folks off…

  79. KC says:

    Talk about wasted time. Let’s make it eight years. Do you think T. Boone has seen Jesus and wants to repent for his swift boat escapade? Or, and I won’t argue with this logic, he needs another 160 milllion for Oklahoma State football. Garth Brooks has obviously crapped out on his donation!
    That all being said I give this guy credit for a plan. I’m fairly convinced the Congress could not make a plan to take a crap in the morning.
    I also find it so ironic about all the hell being raised over the new power transmission lines coming from these new wind power sources. No black and white issues any more. Just different shades of gray.
    I remember bringing in a group of investors to N central Oklahoma years ago who wanted to ship New York City sludge to be spread on farmland. Fear mongers shot that idea to hell and it will be a huge factor on all these new issues as well.
    Anyway, Good luck T.. It’s going to be a fight but I promise this guy has the firepower to win.

  80. KC says:

    And another simple question for all you guys who seem to know the numbers game: What would the net results be if we simply increased our milage / car by 10 miles / gallon on all passenger cars and pick ups in the United States?
    I just bought a Highlander Hybrid for my wife about 8 months ago and this thing has consistantly got around 25 mpg around town and on the road. Not bad for a SUV.

  81. Kevin says:

    I really don’t care that TBP’s plan may not be the best for global warming.
    (I think that its good but not perfect in that sense). But it does help to get America off of foriegn oil (increasing Renewable Energy in so doing).

    The environmental/green movement should be willing to support this while supporting increased solar PhotoVoltaic electrical generation. Otherwise you will be like those who voted for Nader in 2000 instead of Gore. It may be the philosophical choice, but it will be a big practical mistake.

  82. concolor1 says:

    Top Ten Ways T. Boone Pickens Could Better Spend His Ten Billion

    10. Buy air time apologizing to the American public for funding Swift Boat…
    9. Spend a lot of money convincing Texas to put bounties on politicians and underwrite them…
    8. Pay off the bet he welshed on to the Vets’ organization that documented the Swift Boat lies.
    7. Take a year-long ocean cruise and invite Rupert Murdoch to accompany him…
    6. Send me a modest one-tenth of one percent–a mere ten mill–to buy my silence; otherwise I’m e-mailing Letterman…
    5. Loan Rush Limbaugh some money for a shrink and group therapy…
    4. Take a college class from Al Gore…
    3. Hire Scott Mclellan as his press secretary…
    2. Two year’s health care insurance for one mllion uninsured American workers…
    1. A dinner date with Jane Fonda…

  83. Doepie says:

    The “Gang Of Four” (10 bipartisan Senators) crafted a bill compromising the partisan positions regarding energy policy and Obama is now considering SOME offshore drilling. This is strengthening T Boone’s NG plan. A company he started-CLNE, one of the biggest NG fleet conversion companies was up $1.21 in after hour trading last Friday based on this news. This bill will only be discussed 6 weeks from now in the Senate. Some compromise is essential to get the AE Tax Incentives renewed not to mention rigid opposing of offshore drilling has energized McCain for the fist time since the race for the presidency started.

  84. Derfjerky says:

    Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees….. All you smart folks arguing about the minutiae of various possible futures seem to miss the point. SOMETHING needs to be done to change business as usual.

    If any of you has a better, more workable, quickly implementable plan than Pickens, offer it up to another billionaire who can fund and promote it. It’ll probably take that kind of effort and backing. Neither Sierra Club and its fellow travelers nor Al Gore, ets, seem to have that kind of clout. Yeah, TBP may make money off his plan — so what?

    Unless our government gets Manhattan-project or Apollo-project vision again, the govt won’t be able to take action quickly enough — they’re in the pocket of the existing power structure. So let’s see what competition, private money, and the free market can do, if anything.

    Not that what follows necessarily applies to any contributors to this thread: most of you sound like reasonably smart people….and half the world is below average, remember…

    “…the big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

    We smart ones need to find a way to convince the dumb bastards that action is critically necessary in a short time frame…. and let’s not let “perfect” be the enemy of “good”.

  85. John Conklin says:

    I worked in the solar industry & i would like to know about the area taken up by wind turbines & their unsitely look on the landscape that many oppose. It is my understanding that current solar cell efficiency could take care of America’s needs in a 10 mile square area(100 sq. mi.). I lived in Nevada & there is that much land in an area where there is no man’s land. Also there was a lotta wind. My understanding is there was twice as much wind @ 32 foot towers than 16 foot towers. Since there is SO MUCH unoccupied land in Nevada, might that not be a wonderbar place for our country’s energy needs.

  86. Earl Killian says:

    John Conklin, you are off by 2 orders of magnitude. It would take in the ballpark of 10,000 sq.mi. (100 mi by 100 mi) to power the U.S. using CSP. For Wind, the AWEA FAQ says

    How much land is needed for a utility-scale wind plant?

    In open, flat terrain, a utility-scale wind plant will require about 60 acres per megawatt of installed capacity. However, only 5% (3 acres) or less of this area is actually occupied by turbines, access roads, and other equipment–95% remains free for other compatible uses such as farming or ranching. In California, Minnesota, Texas, and elsewhere, wind energy provides rural landowners and farmers with a supplementary source of income through leasing and royalty arrangements with wind power developers.

    A wind plant located on a ridgeline in hilly terrain will require much less space, as little as two acres per megawatt.

    Using the above 60 acres per MW, figure that the total area of a wind farm to power the U.S. would be 145,000 sq.mi., but the area that is not dual-use would be 7,000 sq.mi. One of the advantages of wind is that it can be offshore. Mark Jacobson’s numbers for wind area are based on 5MW turbines taking 0.44 each, which gives only 40,000 sq.mi. to power the U.S.

    Of course we should seek a variety of sustainable power sources for the U.S. Single technology estimates are for purposes of scale illustration only.

  87. Earl Killian says:

    Kevin wrote, “I really don’t care that TBP’s plan may not be the best for global warming. (I think that its good but not perfect in that sense). But it does help to get America off of foriegn oil (increasing Renewable Energy in so doing).

    TBP’s plan does not get America off of foreign oil. The Honda Civic CNG (a small car, not representative of the US fleet) goes 0.23 miles on a cubic foot of NG. The NG used for electricity in the US would power Civics (but not bigger cars) only 57% of the miles driven annually in the US.

    The wind power that Pickens proposes to build, if used directly for transportation instead of trying to substitute for NG, would power a fleet of similar sized plug-in vehicles 109% of the miles driven annually in US. Wind fueled plug-ins would eliminate foreign oil consumption, unlike CNG vehicles. Indeed, wind powered plug-ins would turn the US into an oil exporting nation again.

    Joe was correct to call the plan “half-brilliant, half-dumb”. The wind is good. CNG cars are dumb.

  88. Earl Killian says:

    KC asks, “And another simple question for all you guys who seem to know the numbers game: What would the net results be if we simply increased our milage / car by 10 miles / gallon on all passenger cars and pick ups in the United States?

    It takes 15-20 years to change the US vehicle fleet by new vehicle sales, at which point the US population has increased, leading to more miles driven. So if you increased the US fleet MPG from 21 in 2008 to 31 in 2028, and factor in the population increase, we would go from 135 billion gallons per year down to 107 billion gallons. Whether this is enough of a drop given 2028 production and competition from developing nations, I don’t know, but it seems to me we should be aiming a lot higher than a 10 MPG improvement. PHEVs can give us much greater improvements, which is why they are a core solution.

  89. Earl Killian says:

    Daprez wrote, “Electric cars sound like a great solution until you actually drive one.
    Major major major improvements needed in delivering an electric car that suburban folk will actually use. Remember they have 2.4 kids to take to school, soccer practice, and all their playdates.

    One of the two pure battery electric vehicles in my family’s garage is an SUV that seats five and costs 2.4 cents a mile to drive (the gas version of the same SUV costs 17.2 cents a mile in fuel). It goes 80 MPH on the highway. What’s wrong with that for 2.4 kids, soccer practice, etc.?

  90. Earl Killian says:

    Daprez wrote, “CO2 at 385 PPM concentration is still only a trace gas in the atmosphere.

    You suggest that CO2 has no effect because of low concentration, which is simply false. The effect of CO2 on temperature was calculated from basic physics in 1896 by Svante Arrenhius; since then we’ve had refinements, but the physics remains pretty basic.

    Remember also that the Antarctic ice sheets began to form when CO2 fell to 450ppm, 34 million years ago. Raising CO2 above this level for long periods of time is likely to see that glaciation reversed.

    Daprez wrote, “Also when talking about CO2 lets remember that it is one of the three components needed for photosynthesis.

    For a million years, plants have been adapted to a CO2 level of 180-280 ppm and the temperature levels associated with those CO2 levels. Increasing levels of CO2 can increase plant growth when all other nutrients are increased correspondingly and other factors are held constant, but that is not the world of global warming. Increased CO2 levels in the future are likely to be associated with drought and increased temperatures, which are negatives for plant growth. Increased nighttime temperatures in particular can stress plants and decrease yield, as was found in the study of rice yields. For example, Peng et al found in Rice yields decline with higher night temperature from global warming:

    Grain yield declined by 10% for each 1°C increase in growing-season minimum temperature in the dry season, whereas the effect of maximum temperature on crop yield was insignificant. This report provides a direct evidence of decreased rice yields from increased nighttime temperature associated with global warming.

  91. Earl: Please be careful and don’t be tempted to beat your head against the wall due to postings by the not-well-informed, who don’t realize how dangerous it is to be uninformed about energy policy.

    We’re going to get a big wake-up call. Set the alarm.

    Thanks to you and Joe for all your work — I’m putting it to the best use I can.


  92. John Conklin says:

    Mr. Killian, I would like to know where u came up with your 1oo mile square number. I read about the 100 square mile thing & was told that where i was employed. Could you give a few sources of your information, please? I am also aware of tidal motion that would look something like like oil derricks on land affixed to a pontoon type system – but i believe this method needs a lot more engineering. Also, what sort of qualification do you have? Was your solar panel based on a certain degree of efficiency?

  93. Earl Killian says:

    John, there are many sources that agree on the approximate size of the number, which is again on the order of 10,000 sq. mi. (100 mi by 100 mi). Check out the Ausra whitepapers, for example. Or just do the calculation directly starting with 3,670 TWh consumed by customers in the U.S. in 2006 (source EIA’s Electric Power Annual). NREL’s Fuel From the Sky report reports the Southwest as having Premium CSP potential of 825,956 GWh on 1,886,000 acres, which is 2.28 acres/GWh. From this you get 13,000 sq.mi. if you replace all 3,670 TWh. If you leave existing hydro (7%), other renewables (2.4%), and nuclear (19.4%) in place, then of course you need 71% of that area, which is 9,300 sq. mi. If the U.S. implemented an aggressive negawatts program, that might save over 1,000 TWh in 2030, so you would also need less CSP with energy efficiency.

    Of course in reality the U.S. needs a diverse energy supply, so the CSP calculation is just a sanity check. Hydro, nuclear, wind, geothermal would all play a part.

  94. Billy Howerton says:

    T Boone Pickens plan to make the U.S. “energy dependent” through the use of more wind powered generators is laudable. The natural gas part of the plan, (using natural gas to power cars and trucks) is more than a little suspect, at least here in California. Pickens owns Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a natural gas fueling station company that happens to be the sole backer of Proposition 10 on California’s November ballot. This measure would float the sale of $6 billion in general fund bonds to provide alternative energy rebates and incentives-but by the time the principal and interest is paid off, it would amount to at least $11.7 billion in taxpayer money on Pickens self-serving natural gas agenda. The deceptively written initiative reveals a laundry list of cash grabs-from $200 million for a liquified natural gas terminal to $2.5 billion for rebates of up to $50,000 for each natural gas vehicle. Most insidiously, Prop 10’s lavish rebates for natural gas-powered cars and trucks could crowd out superior technologies from taking root in California, the largest transportation market in the United States. Even worse, private trucking and delivery companies could buy several thousand natural gas vehicles, collect California taxpayer-funded rebates of $200 million or more and immediately send those fleets out of state. There is nothing in Prop 10 to prevent that. It’s like asking California’s voters to finance a new bridge with taxpayer dollars, without mentioning that the bridge could in Ohio.
    Pickens is selling Proposition 10 to green-minded, high gas-price-paying Californiians under the official name of “The California Renewable Energy and Clean Alternative Fuel Act”. If the name rings a bell, that’s because it’s intentionally similar to the “California Clean Alternative Energy Act” of 2006, also known as Proposition 87 on that years California ballot. That proposition would have had rebates and incentives funded by fees on the oil industry for petroleum extracted in California, not by taxpayers. Proposition 87 lost after the oil industry spent more than $100 million dollars against it.
    Pickens raid on California’s general fund comes while the state is in grid-lock over how to balance a $15 billion shortfall in the budget. Also, in the “Accountability” paragraph there isn’t a word about requiring proof that the billions of dollars spent would result in one less ounce of petroleum used or one fewer wisp of greenhouse gases emitted in California.
    The above information is from a commentary article written for the Los Angeles Times by Anthony Rubenstein. Rubenstein was the founder and chairman of Californians for Clean Energy, the force behind the aforementioned Prop 87.
    Be careful what you wish for, as it may come true.

  95. SJ says:

    As the Democratic Convention wraps up and the hoopla of the Republican Convention heats up Americans are still left with a sense of a lot of hot air of any concrete plans to end the energy crisis in America. Northerners dread the upcoming onset of fall and colder weather wondering how they will be able to afford how to keep their homes and families warm. Southerners have been sweating the high cost of energy raising the thermostat to save on their electric bills. Families everywhere are wondering where else they can cut back to cover the cost of fueling up the family vehicle to get back and forth to work and take care of the necessities of life. There is no money left for relaxation and family fun. The stress level continues to rise. The average electric bill has risen 16% to cover the power companies additional production costs. A gallon of milk is almost as precious as a gallon of gas. The cost of every consumer product has risen sharply. American’s are stretched to the limit. Jobs are being lost, foreclosures are increasing at an alarming rate. Seems even the family pets are suffering the high cost of fuel as almost daily a new story is on TV about shelters being forced to euthanize record number of surrendered pets from those forced out of their homes or no longer able to care for them. The energy crisis in our country is far reaching and needs immediate attention. I am hoping whoever gets elected will get their act together and make this their #1 priority.

    An interesting site to share…

  96. Heather Van Daalen says:

    Dear Mr Pickens,
    I have an answer to the “energy crisis” on the planet. Guess what it is FREE! all we need to do is build an aperatice to hold it! NO POLUTION! FREE, CLEAN. I will have my patent soon. If you want more money let me know.
    Peace and Respect-Heather

  97. Lance Niederhaus says:

    Dear Sir,
    (seeing that you have not even posted your name with this article)

    You obviously have not paid attention to the details of the Pickens Plan. He welcomes all solutions which will help the american public and the economy. He welcomes electric cars, but points out that the technology does not yet exist for electric eighteen wheelers and other heavy haulers. This is where the CNG can reduce foreign energy dependency. CNG vehicles are proven and simple technology, the rest of the world has them. On a recent trip to Brazil, the fueling stations only had CNG and biodiesel, no gasoline. It is a viable solution and securing additional power in a renewable way is the proper first step towards a prosperous and environmentally friendly nation. Unlike Al Gore’s alarmist proposal, which doesn’t even address the real issues, Pickens invites criticism. If you have a better plan, he would love to hear it, as would I.

  98. Earl Killian says:

    Lance, where are the claims you make about the the Pickens Plan? You won’t find them at
    Why won’t he say them there?

  99. Ted Ainsworth says:

    Almost ALL, are missing the point. 700 million for imported oil OR 700 million for DOMESTIC natural gas. Seems like a no-brainer.
    This is a system that is already in use. This could be implemented immediately. Simply remove ALL fuel taxes, on natural gas, for ten years. This would encourage private conversion.
    Not a problem to implement; use the same plan as the switch to unleaded fuel. Require fuel stations to be installed over a ten year period. In ten years we could be free of imported oil.
    We will still have the same environmental problems but at a much lower cost.

  100. Earl Killian says:

    Ted Ainsworth, I think the point you are missing is that NG is not the only way to eliminate imported oil. It is not even close to being the best way. In fact, it is probably not a workable way to eliminate NG. The way that works is to charge plug-in cars with domestic wind power.

  101. Please, no tax breaks. Leave government out of this. That is what got us into our last mess, crude oil. T. Boone is only calling for Nat gas as a bridge. Look at the whole plan….please.

  102. Earl Killian says:

    Ray, Joe is looking at the whole plan. That’s why he calls it half-brilliant, half-dumb.

  103. David Lewis says:

    How could one argue with natural gas for local fleet operators…..?? Would you rather send the money to someone who may in fact use it against us? I say keep the money in the good old US and drill for more gas. Pretty easy to set up local fleets on CNG and saves money, CO2 and keeps the money here.

    What is wrong with this plan??
    Electric vehicles are great and I am sure in 10 years will be available to do this or at least compete with it but not today. As Pickens says this is not permanent but a bridge to better and greener fuels

  104. M Schultz says:

    The Honda Civic GX CNG is a cleaner car than the Prius. (I may trade my Prius in on a GX) The plug in hybrid community has to face the fact that they are still dependent on foreign oil. What they should be advocating for is a CNG hybrid. I hope the rumor is true that Toyota is working on on such a car. Don’t get hung up on Pickens. I know it’s fun to think your smarter than a billionaire.

    According to my sources when natural gas is used to generate electricity 60% of the energy is lost. But let’s go with your number of 40% lost. Why not put that fuel directly into a vehicle. People have been criticizing hydrogen because of all the energy needed to create the hydrogen, hence, loss of efficiency. Same thing for charging electric vehicles with natural gas.

    Natural gas is not only cleaner but is is also cheaper and not dependent on foreign imports plus it is renewable. Natural gas (methane)can be made from our organic wastes. We generate millions of tons of organic waste that go into landfills that generate methane that goes into the atmosphere. We can process that waste through anaerobic digestion to create Biomethane that can be cleaned up and pumped into the grid. There is a dairy farmer in the Central Valley that is doing just that and is selling gas to PG&E. Germany and Sweden are generating biomethane for their natural gas grid. Germany has Feed in Tariffs for biomethane produced by farmers. Germany plans to have 1000 CNG fueling stations installed. Every sewage plant, every rancher, every waste transfer station could be producing biomethane now, no new technologies to develop. Anaerobic digestion can be done on the community level No more hauling organic waste to the landfill. 50% of our landfill waste is organic. Forget biodiesel. Forget ethanol.

    Wherever the grid goes a fueling station can be installed. Since CNG can be delivered by pipe, no more tanker trucks. With CNG tanker ships no more oil spills. Any leaks float upward.

    If your on the gas grid you can fuel up at home at an even cheaper rate than at a public fueling station.

    Argentina has over 1.7 million CNG vehicles. They are converting 9000 vehicle a month. In Europe car manufactures are staring to get into the CNG vehicle business. CNG is the fuel to use until electric vehicle can meet the same needs as conventional vehicles. Many communities are going to CNG buses. Sacramento has the cleanest fuel burning buses in the country, They already meet the 2010 emission requirements.

    We have a waste problem in this country. Generating biomethane makes this waste useful. and the solids that are left over from the process can be used a non petroleum based fertilizer. Right now 3% of our natural gas is used to create commercial fertilizers.

    Buy the way, Toyota is coming out with a new CNG model again, probably because of the success of the Honda GX.

    There is a waiting lists for the Honda GX. In Utah CNG is less than a dollar a gas gallon equivalent. People there are scrambling to convert their cars to CNG. I would love to convert my Prius to CNG. I have seen two different Prius’s that were converted in Europe. CARB is the main obstacle here. Good old CARB. I hope we don’t see “Who killed the Plug-in Hybrid”

    I realize that the electric car community might be threatened by CNG because it might delay the eventual adoption of the electric vehicle as mainstream. And they may be right but, should we wait to clean up our air because the best solution is not accepted yet?

    If you take a gasoline driven car and convert it to electric it will cost $10,000 plus. If you convert it to CNG, it cost between $2,000 and $3,000. Now I look forward to the day when all cars are electric but I hate to see all of the existing vehicles go to the dump. That would be a tremendous waste of embedded energy. So, Should we retrofit them to electric or CNG. CNG makes more sense for the tight budget. CNG conversions can be done in a day.

    Expanding the natural gas grid to create more fueling stations could even contribute to the hydrogen economy if they have to resort to reforming natural gas to get the hydrogen. They could install reformers at the CNG fueling stations. By the way, there are 34 CNG fueling stations in PG&E territory that are open to the public.

    I was on this track before T.Boone Pickens. He is on the right side of this issue. I hope you will give it a second look. I am happy to discuss this issue with anyone. I can be reached at

  105. Jim Bullis says:

    Russia has nine times as much natural gas as we do. Iran has five times. Qatar also has about five times.

    See actual numbers.

    So I conclude (half jokingly) that Boone is in cahoots with Putin.

    Putin and Picken, what a team. It is even poetic.

  106. and
    T Boone Picken is misleading us. Now he wants to run trucks on natural gas. That would take heaver gas tanks that be 3 times the size and cost a fortune to convert the trucks or buy new ones and not solve the carbon footprint problem. Put those wastelands into jatropha and replace the diesel first.

  107. Bill Rose says:

    Mr. Pickens, I work for the Texas Forest Service and we have a lot in common with what you are doing. We are in the process of adopting new plans for the Texas 20 years from now. Qualitity of life, clear air, clean water, mitigation of the impact of people on the cities, getting the rivers to flowing and the acquafers recharged. Also, protecting improved property from fire. You were on a panel recently with my cousin Rusty Rose. If you would like to meet and explore commonalitie, you can reach me at (903) 586-7545.

  108. Ben Lawson says:

    I am for Mr. Pickens he is the only person who is trying on a daily basis to get our country off foreign oil. Everyone here seems to be stuck on CNG cars, I saw Mr. Pickens on TV talk about all kinds of emergy saving plans, he did not dwell on cars which as I read this board is a mistake but as he said at the meeting putting out electric cars will happen, he’s worried about the 18 wheelers and BIG TRUCKS that can’t. This is where CNG must be directed to eliminate diesel. I also see a lot of people who don’t want Mr. Pickens to make money, well I’d rather see him make it than some foreign SHEIK, at least he will spend it here and not against US.

  109. Bill Stroud says:

    Hi, I have been reading trough all of the responses. I would like to mention how bad gasoline truly is:
    1st: Made from crude oil, this is foreign. (Pickens has stated)
    2nd:10-20KW to make a gallon of gas. (You can charge an electric car for less)
    3rd: It takes massive amounts of Natural gas to refine (especially syn-crude)
    4th: You have to add Alkalines, Toxic chemicals, MTBE, and it’s very volatile.
    5th: Gasoline is non reneable. Natural Gas is methane ,which can be made from manure, grabage, and waste water treatment plants.
    6th: Gasoline at $2 gall is still more expensive than Natural Gas.
    7th: I personaly world rather live beside a nuculear power plant than a oil refinery.

    Go out and google energy imput for gasoline it is unreal. Everyone is talking how ineficent automobiles are, how about efficency of just gasoline to your tank alone??

    Good Luck Mr. Pickens

  110. What everybody needs to know is that Boone Pickens who funded the Swift Boat Veterans against John Kerry is pushing the Windfarm bill to
    allow access and eminent domain for his Mesa Water company and the
    Olgallala Acquifer pipeline that he pumps for free, and covers about 8
    states… He will sell the water to Dallas and Fort Worth – know that he lives
    in a part of Dallas where his next-door neighbors are Ross Perot and soon
    to be George Bush….'_'clean_energy'_plan_is_a_ponzi_scheme/

  111. msn nickleri says:

    Mr. Pickens, I work for the Texas Forest Service and we have a lot in common with what you are doing. We are in the process of adopting new plans for the Texas 20 years from now. Qualitity of life, clear air, clean water, mitigation of the impact of people on the cities, getting the rivers to flowing and the acquafers recharged. Also, protecting improved property from fire. You were on a panel recently with my cousin Rusty Rose.

  112. fred bender says:

    We SHOULD do something now! Wind and solar have free imputs. Infrastructure is a need for any and all energy sources but expanding our infastructure DOES create employment. The newest tech for electric cars is VERY impressive. If we couple that with solar and wind electric generation we have a win, win. If we couple that with improved mass transit we have another win. Our current economic downturn is as much the result of $4+ gas last summer as problems with banks. $4+ gas and everyone said “Whoa!” I would feel better about a plan developed by America’s top scientists rather than a former oil billionaire. Has ANYONE else put forth a COMPREHENSIVE plan?

  113. Mr. Pickens, I work for the Texas Forest Service and we have a lot in common with what you are doing.グループウェア

  114. Doug Thayer says:

    we agree with your use of cng, but I`m having no luck finding where I can buy equipment to do so. We want to run gas and cng in our pick-up. Where can we turn? Your turn. Thanks if you can help me, your truly Doug Thayer.