Tuesday, August 19, 2008

T-Boone Pickens

I had the opportunity last Thursday to listen to the famous or infamous T-Boone Pickens speak at the convention center in LeMars. He is a very personable speaker. He even took time to answer peoples concerns about alternative energy. I asked him a question about Hyperion, but didn’t like his answer. I mentioned to him that his friend Al Huddleston is planning on putting up a 400,000 bbl per day refinery to refine tar sands from Canada and that this sounded quite contrary to the Pickens plan to loosen our grip on foreign oil. I mentioned the fact that the last time I looked, Canada was still a foreign county. Pickens answer was “Let Al do what Al wants to do. We need the tar sands and Canada is a friendly neighbor, not hostile. I don’t see a problem unless you have to live next to it.”

Is it just me or do I see a problem here? I don’t know what I was expecting to hear when I went to listen to him speak, but the response I got to my question was really disappointing. I really expected an answer something like it would be more effective to channel his (Al Huddleston’s) efforts into renewable energy or wind energy or supporting his energy plan, but for him to just shrug his shoulders and say “Aw let Al do what Al wants to do” just doesn’t wash with me.
How does all this tie into our local problem of a zoning ordinance. If you think about what the ordinance says, Hyperion has the option to do whatever it wants to with the area that has been zoned as a planned development. One of the things Hyperion can do is develop a wind farm to produce electricity. Since I love conspiracies, I have to think it is more than coincidence that a man like T-Boone Pickens would pick LeMars Iowa for a speech on reducing dependence on foreign oil. Of all the places in the United States for him to talk about a project as large as what he wants to do, LeMars just doesn’t fit. Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Omaha, Fargo, or Minneapolis makes sense. LeMars? No Way.

Hyperion has options on over 12,000 acres. The refinery takes up only 3200 acres. Why not put in a wind farm? This area fits perfectly with his plan for wind energy and developing uses for natural gas for things other than heat. The only way T-Boones plan can succeed is if he can find a replacement for natural gas. Take the 22% consumption rate of natural gas and replace it with wind energy, and you have a win win situation for Mr. Pickens. He is heavily invested into natural gas. This deal would be the best of both worlds for him. He stated at the center that he is in business to make a profit. If it isn’t profitable, he gets out of it. He has spent his whole life in the oil business and I can’t see why he would get out of it now. It certainly isn’t compassion or a sense of do good for your country.

His energy grid doesn’t have a chance unless the government steps in. He was asked why not do this as a state issue, and he replied that states rights would make it almost impossible for this to be done that is why he needs the federal government to clear the way for him to create transmission paths for getting the energy to the consumer. What he is really talking about is “eminent domain.”

There is an old saying in this world that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I like the idea of building an energy grid using renewable energy; I just am leery about someone like Mr. Pickens doing it. It just doesn’t sound real. He doesn’t say in his plan just how many wind turbines and solar grids this is going to take to do. I would suspect it is in the tens of thousands. I don’t know that wind energy can be stored can it? is wind energy a case of use it or lose it? The wind is always blowing somewhere and I’m sure it is a viable source of energy, but how far can this energy be transmitted before it isn’t useable? How will it tie into the solar units? I’m not sure but solar power in order to be useable has to be converted from direct current to alternating current. I’m sure wind energy is the same way. How do we do this on a grand scale?
There are many many questions that remain unanswered in Mr. Pickens plan. He doesn’t address these problems in any sites that I’ve read, and until someone can prove his theory, I would really be hesitant about jumping on board. He says that the cost will be in excess of one trillion dollars. This is a significant amount of money. Granted, we are spending $700 billion a year on foreign oil, but can this really work?

Go to his website http://www.pickensplan.com/theplan/ and read on what he plans to do, but question everything he says can be done. Until we are satisfied that this is the way to go, I would be just a little bit hesitant about accepting his theory on blind faith. I am the eternal pessimist and until you can show me that it will work, I will just have to have reservations about it.


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