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Pickens Wind-Power Plan Comes To a Whimpering End

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the go-long-on-stocking-coal dept.

Power 346

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

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346 comments

And so (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665314)

the OilIgachy get to say he was full of hot air.

Re:And so (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665328)

I'm not particularly familiar with how he was planning to go about this, but it's a pretty good bet that a lot of the trouble came from subsidies. For reasons that don't make any sense to anybody outside the oil industry, oil gets heavily subsidized while renewable energy gets only a very small fraction of the government support.

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

Alternative energy would probably be coming along a lot more quickly, if oil wasn't subsidized and oil companies were required to pay the full cost of the externalities that their product creates.

Re:And so (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665356)

Wind power is heavily subsidised in Europe.

It's still rubbish.

Where are our nuclear power stations? Oh yes, that's right, they haven't been built because the only thing environmentalists hate more than CO2 is a power station that doesn't produce any.

I'll tell you where the subsidies went (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665444)

Wind power is heavily subsidised in Europe.

It's the renewable energy with the second-highest percentage for *electrical* uses (the highest being the well-established hydro) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy]. It seems to make sense to invest more in that.

Where are our nuclear power stations?

If you add up the subsidies sunk in nuclear (from the good ol' times started with the Manhattan Project), I guess you'll dwarf whatever went into renewables.
Look just at the table in [http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf68.html] (and that's by a nuclear lobby group, for crying out loud!). They don't even blush at those numbers. And I'm sure there are many hidden subsidies (think military!) and externalities they don't wwant to talk about.

Re:And so (0)

kge (457708) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665550)

If you have the solution for the nuclear waste then I am all for nuclear power.
So far no one has found a reliable way of storing the waste for thousands of years reliably..

Re:And so (5, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665630)

It's simple. You use breeder reactors and fuel reprocessing. Your waste drops to next to nothing. The waste you do produce is very radioactive, meaning it only needs to be stored for a few decades before it is depleted. Your usable fuel supply grows by about 500 times, and you don't have to send it through an extremely costly refinement process. It's not like they're anything new, they've been around in experimental form since the 50s, and there have been a handful of production reactors over the years. But wait, they produce plutonium as one of their intermediate products, and that can be used to make more fission bombs. We can't have that.

Re:And so (3, Insightful)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665684)

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

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

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

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

Re:And so (2)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665894)

Or rather, they hate Chernobyl style nuclear polution more than they hate CO2, and they want an answer to what we do with the waste. The free market doesn't provide for paying for cleanup costs hundreds or even thousands of years after the plant reaches the end of its productive life.

Re:And so (4, Informative)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665372)

I'm not sure quite what you are referring to.

Oil gets subsidized to a certain degree. But if you really want to see massive subsidies and protectionist, fucked-up tariffs and other governmental screwups at work, you need to look at the corn lobby. For the past five years, corn subsidies have been $37b; oil subsidies only $14b.

The end result is our diet is fucked up (way, way too much chemically incorrect HFCS [cnn.com] ), and regular sugar being way more expensive than it should be.

Plus, because corn is subsidized, all the farmers grow corn (which actually is a shit-poor source of energy once you calculate the net gain post-processing) instead of something better.

Re:And so (4, Insightful)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665516)

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

Re:And so (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665754)

The solution to obesity is to stop thinking that you can ingest hundreds of grams of sugar a day through sodas and food, and not get fat.

Some people may be able to claim genetics, but I dont think the average obese person's diet would stand up to much scrutiny-- even if you dont look at what kind of sugar theyre ingesting.

Re:And so (-1, Troll)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665518)

Oil gets subsidized to a certain degree.

Less so than corn? So, when's the last time we invaded a country to protect the flow of ethanol?

Re:And so (0)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665778)

Its really great when someone starts reading a post, gets to the end of the first sentence, and then decides the rest is irrelevant. Parent answered your objection a mere 2 sentences later:

For the past five years, corn subsidies have been $37b; oil subsidies only $14b.

So assuming he has his sources in order, yes, $37b is quite a bit more than $14b. Of course you claim invading for oil, which is great and all, but doesnt explain why we invaded Iraq, which ranks a whopping number 14 on "world oil producing countries" [infoplease.com] . Thats right-- Iraq ISNT that big of an oil producer.

But sure, lets keep making ridiculous conspiracy claims ungrounded in reality.

Re:And so (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665888)

The amount Iraq produces is far less relevant than how it is selling oil. Saddam was planning on selling oil in Euros, rather than US Dollars. If other oil-producing countries had followed suit, this would have made oil significantly more expensive for the USA, as well as weakening the dollar.

Re:And so (3, Interesting)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665532)

http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0510dancs.html [dollarsandsense.org]

The US military subsidizes the security of oil, some estimate to the tune of $100/bbl if the Iraq war is included (and while Iraq may not be a 'war for oil', we wouldn't have had anything to do with that whole godforsaken region of the world if it weren't for oil in the first place).

What's worse, we pay that money and the rest of the world is a free rider on the back of our military. I would like all "freedom of the seas" military spending stopped, and the US military return to a defensive posture plus R&D and maintenance of industrial readiness (enough work to keep a core of contractors going in case of another war). Let Europe and Asia pay the cost of world peace, especially if the US loses seignorage of world currency if/when the dollar loses its 'reserve status'.

Re:And so (3, Interesting)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665650)

The U.S. isn't supporting Israel in defense of oil. U.S. would still be interested in the region without the oil. And Iran bucking for nuclear weapons would surely catch the U.S.'s interest.

Re:And so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665726)

To add, we grow so much corn, that if you took the balanced diet that the government puts out (you know, that food pyramid) and applied it to every American, we could not provide a balanced, nutritious diet for everyone, due to lack of veggies.

That's how fucked up we are--we provide guidelines our own suppliers don't even meet because of the subsidies we give them.

Worse, those subsidies, esp. with and added with ethanol money, puts our food and energy markets *in the same mix*. That's insane. It's the reason why corn prices have skyrocketed, since farmers will sell their corn to ethanol producers, instead of for human consumption, which was the reason it was grown and subsidized for.

(Couple that with the worldwide grain supply decreasing, and it's a really stupid move. Our grain production 2 years ago had a window of like 2 weeks for the year's production--iow, if we had a bad growing season, we didn't produce enough grain to meet our needs.)

btw, I have no problem with farmers, or farmers with bumper stickers saying they are important. I have a problem with some of those same farmers selling their shit to make money while people die or we provide a health care system fixing problems caused by their insane market choices. It's easier to find a bag of Doritos than a couple of tomotoes sometimes. You want to sell your shit as you choose? That's fine. You better not be taking subsidy money though or be getting special tax breaks. Otherwise, you should be able to be told what to do, and we need to stop feeding special interests like the corn lobby..

Re:And so (2, Informative)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665740)

Probably off topic, and feel free to mod as such, but Id like to take issue with part of your post--

The end result is our diet is fucked up (way, way too much chemically incorrect HFCS [cnn.com]),

I see this meme all over the place, and yet I have yet to see a study which actually shows a causation of bad health in any way to HFCS, in a way that sucrose would not also be responsible.

Heres my theory as to why that wont happen--

  1. Sucrose metabolises into a 1:1 mix of fructose and glucose [wikipedia.org] . HFCS is generally 55% fructose and 42% glucose [wikipedia.org] -- so its almost identical after metabolism.
  2. Sucrose has about 4kcal per gram. HFCS has about 3kcal per gram. [wikipedia.org] So if anything is going to cause build up of fat-- which is basically stored excess energy-- sucrose does the job about 33% faster gram for gram, absent some factor that no one has yet explained.
  3. HFCS-55 is about as sweet as sucrose, so similar amounts can be used.

The biggest reason, HFCS is just one of those "popular to hate" things. Doing an actual study with equal amounts of sucrose and HFCS in a human metabolism to show the facts just isnt in vogue right now. Making baseless causal links between obesity and HFCS, uniquely as compared to sucrose, is in vogue. People can run around feeling superior for claiming that they know best, and can feel good for being involved in the anti-HFCS campaign, never mind that ingesting a tenth of a pound of sugar per coke is going to make anyone fat, whether its sucrose or HFCS. Never mind that eating bread with about 10 grams of sugar per slice probably isnt the healthiest thing in the world, no, the real scandal is that its HFCS! (And if you think im kidding, take a look at that honey-wheat bread, or that wonder bread... why do you think its so tasty?)

People need to wake up and stop blaming some bogeyman, and realize that if you eat a diet filled with sugar in all of your foods and drinks, youre going to get fat if you have a normal metabolism.

Re:And so (4, Interesting)

Troggie87 (1579051) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665744)

Many farmers would agree that corn subsidies need to end, but the situation is much more complicated than "evil corn lobby and farmers!" I honestly dont expect most people to dig deep enough to figure out whats actually going on, for the same reason I've stopped trying to explain to homophobes why gays aren't evil. Everyone seems to need a little "us versus them" in their diet. But I'll give a quick rundown.

-Ag subsidies in general are a way to slow the bleeding of population out of rural America. The price of commodities in general is so low (due to advancements in machinery and genetics) that the majority of farms would simply go under without some subsidies and tax breaks (either directly or through things like ethanol). In the short term this would lead to all kinds of problems, and frankly some government intervention this way is better than welfare. In the long term all of that freed land would be acquired by superfarms, and we all know how fond slashdot is of cartels...

-Agriculture in general is used as a bargaining chip on the world market, usually in diplomatic negotiations. The money that goes into ag subsidies could be reduced substantially if actual free market forces existed internationally. As it stands, there is a curious correlation between favorable agricultural tariffs/import bans for other nations and technology/manufacturing/??? deals favoring the United States. China blatantly manipulates demand to keep its rural areas from revolting. Europe in general tends to find "health risks" in American ag exports right as their own home industries decline, and ban imports until the local prices increase. Its a dirty business.

-And just fyi, corn isn't grown because there is some large conspiracy. It is very hearty, and with the current genetic modifications can take a lot of abuse from temperamental climates. If cellulistic ethanol pans out modified switch grass will likely take its place, but at the moment there just aren't that many crops positioned to displace corn. Since we went to all the trouble developing industries to create things like bio-degradable plastics from corn, why suddenly yank the rug out and force a move back to non-renewable?

This is just my two cents of course. I just find it discouraging to see so much negativity about rural Americans and farmers specifically. Most are just trying to make minimum wage on a consistent basis. I think if people actually interacted with farmers and were exposed to agriculture (ever) positions such as yours would soften a bit.

Re:And so (3, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665394)

His two biggest issues were distribution and the ever decreasing price of natural gas.

First was where he was putting a bunch of the turbines. This was northern Texas and Oklahoma. Lots of flat plains and wind there, but no serious energy distribution grid. Pickens specifically lamented the lack of transmission capability.

The second was as the processes of recovering natural gas from shale and other sources becomes cheaper and more efficient, the price of natgas dropped like a rock.

Look here, especially at the drop in the last column for 2009: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/ng/ng_pri_sum_dcu_nus_a.htm [doe.gov]

From what I understand, it is even lower in 2010. Pickens was touting competitiveness of wind with an electric power price of $7 or greater on natural gas. In 2008 it was over $9 and had been rising, but today it is hovering around $4.

Re:And so (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665432)

Alternative energy would probably be coming along a lot more quickly, if oil wasn't subsidized and oil companies were required to pay the full cost of the externalities that their product creates.

I caught this story on the radio a few days ago. Part of the issue is that natural gas is getting "cheap" -- the story (on capitalist cheerleader Marketplace, the show that best demonstrates that public radio's supposed "leftist bias" is no such thing) didn't mention that this is because of the hideously dirty practice of fracking [vanityfair.com] , that when external costs are included there's absolutely nothing cheap about this gas.

The other problem is that Pickens is apparently an idiot, and was going to place his wind power turbines in areas where not only weren't there transmission lines, but where he didn't have approval to build transmission lines. When he didn't get that approval, he was fscked.

Re:And so (5, Insightful)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665534)

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

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

Re:And so (4, Insightful)

akboss (823334) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665710)

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

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

Re:And so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665798)

Pickens was putting his wind farms in areas without power grids, asking tax payers to pay for the grid, and wanted some price guarantees for his electricity. There is something about billionaires asking the government to hand over tax money to make them wealthier that is rude/

Re:And so (1)

gafisher (865473) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665584)

"Alternative Energy" of any sort is heavily subsidized. Pickens' problem was distribution -- he expected to generate power in the North Texas region and get it to the big demand centers by selling it into the existing grid at near retail rates; inconveniently the "existing grid" didn't amount to much in the desolate area where the wind towers were to go.

Re:And so (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665604)

I'm not particularly familiar with how he was planning to go about this, but it's a pretty good bet that a lot of the trouble came from subsidies.

Yes, he failed to convince politicians to give him sufficient subsidies to make this a profitable venture. When he got involved in this he ran a big advertising campaign that federal and state governments should make a big push for wind power by increasing the amount of tax dollars that went to subsidize it. He failed to generate the public support necessary to get politicians to spend the kind of money on it he needed to make a profit.

Re:And so (5, Insightful)

Ferretman (224859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665716)

The myth of "unfair subsidies to the oil companies" is a nice canard from the alt energy folks, but the facts don't bear it out.

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

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

No subsides for ANYBODY, ANYWHERE is the only way to go. Let the ideas fight it out in the marketplace. THIS will improve gasoline efficiency, advance solar technology, make windmills more durable and less prone to breakdown. Having the federal government back ANY of it is not in their list of duties, nor does it allow the industry to mature.

The "law" (1)

nobuzz (636720) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665342)

No one has told me that I have to buy renewable energy. Be interesting to find out what the "law" is that is forcing us to buy renewable.

Re:The "law" (1)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665362)

It looks like it is handled directly thru the gov't.

http://www.ec.gc.ca/energie-energy/default.asp?lang=En&n=6766D86C-1 [ec.gc.ca]

Are your electric companies gov't owned up there? Or are they gov't regulated, but privately owned?

Re:The "law" (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665470)

And there's nothing in that act that says we have to purchase renewable energy at any cost.

Plus, new equipment is now cheaper than what Pickens bought (China has moved into wnd manufacturing in a big way)

Plus, you have the additional costs of dismantling and shipping, as well as inspection and repair of all the used equipment to make sure it's in good shape.

Give him 5 cents on the dollar ...

Re:The "law" (1)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665502)

Yeah. The U.S. has just last week made a WTO complaint against China for their heavy subsidization of the wind energy sector. Wind turbine manufacturing in specific.

I wonder if there is a connection... :-)

its called TAXES stupid (1)

chronoss2010 (1825454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665364)

and unless you want to pay for 3$ a litre oil i suggest you rethink your statement.....IT isn't aobut forcing anything its about reality. I'd like to see the govt put solar arrays NOW on every house EVERYWHERE. in ten years the world gets a HUGE boost in not having to pay for electricity....

Re:The "law" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665370)

Well, 10 or 20 years from now when oil averages $150 a barrel and Canada has relatively cheap wind power because of long term thinking and planning, we in the US will have some sort of typical knee-jerk half-assed expensive solution to deal with the high priced oil.

Re:The "law" (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665806)

typical knee-jerk half-assed expensive solution to deal with the high priced oil.

The era of big government typical knee-jerk half-assed expensive solutions is over. Oh wait.

Picken up where he left off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665344)

I'm resolving to reduce electricity use in my own home with an improved roof, solar cooling chimney, maybe water heating. If I had the $ I would also go for a ground-source heat-pump.

The real plan (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665358)

Pickens real plan wasn't wind energy - it was water. He wanted the government to grant him free land for the power lines that would be required to get the power back to where it would be used (cities). The land he was trying to get was going to also be used for water transport pipelines, which is going to be a huge moneymaker in this century - particularly in the south and west. Pickens doesn't give a crap about wind energy, I'm glad he was defeated.

Re:The real plan (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665416)

The emulation of the railroads in being granted huge rights-of-way would have been extremely lucrative and in the robber baron tradition.

Such folk built vital infrastructure we would not otherwise have, but lack of water will be a useful constraint on growth.

We don't need growth everywhere.

Re:The real plan (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665822)

The emulation of the railroads in being granted huge rights-of-way would have been extremely lucrative and in the robber baron tradition.

FWIW In Texas, oil drilling is regulated by the Railroad Comission.

Re:The real plan (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665422)

Oh noes, someone wanted to make money by selling something. The shame!

Re:The real plan (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665558)

He wanted to make money by getting the government to give him something, which he would then sell at extortionist prices to people who needed it.

Re:The real plan (2)

dammy (131759) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665456)

Water was apart of it and the federal subsidies were also set to expire leaving him high and dry was the other part to it. Guess he held out hope for Democrat controlled Congress and White House to re-establish that funding.

Re:The real plan (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665622)

I didn't know about the water angle, but I knew he was counting on government funds to make his venture into wind energy profitable. He didn't invest in wind energy because he believed in wind energy, or because he thought it was a profitable venture. He invested in wind energy because he thought he could get the government to pick up the tab for the parts that make wind energy a money loser.

Green power (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665360)

Green/clean/renewable/buzzword power is a funny market, I've seen them try something similar here. Basically what happens is that the current pool of power is already a mix with some parts good and bad. All the special offers do is take part of it and charge a premium for it, while the normal power becomes "dirtier". The overall production mix remains the same, the people willing to pay feelgood money are too few to actually increase demand. That and the environmentalists usually are also opposed to the large windmill parks and whatnot disrupting the natural environment, so their demands usually contradict themselves. But then of course an oil crisis will hit, prices will skyrocket and politicians will be blamed for doing nothing. You're just not going to win this one.

Re:Green power (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665504)

So here it is: We can make clean oil alternatives from Algae, less clean from coal; but the cost is ~$70 a barrel. $70 is high, but we've been there before, and we can manage, we stop selling SUV and start buying Hybrids for example; but the economy doesn't crash etc. So when Oil gets to and stays > $70. alternatives will comes in.
The fear is that it will spike; but this fear is largely unfounded, because in order for oil to be unaffordable in the US, it would also be unaffordable everywhere else - reducing demand etc... So the current path is research on oil alternatives at the $70 level. Not unreasonable - better would be high-speed trains.

What Canadian law is that? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665380)

I'm in Canada. There are several provincial efforts to specify a certain percentage of renewable power by a particular date (e.g., 25% of power from renewable sources by 2015), and/or the ability for customers to voluntarily pay more if they want to buy renewable power -- as in, pay an extra few percent on your power bill and the power company guarantees that all that money will be invested in renewable power production (e.g., wind turbines). The laws don't say "regardless of cost", and don't specify doing it by wind turbines. They usually say "achieve this benchmark for renewable power by this date". The power companies are free to achieve that goal however they want, including importing power from elsewhere (e.g., Nova Scotia recently made a deal for a new hydroelectric power project in Labrador). It *may* cost more money, or maybe not. Depending upon how high the price of oil or other fossil fuels go in the next few years, it might not actually be more expensive in the long run. Realistically, it probably will be in the short term, but I think of it as "achieve this renewable energy target the cheapest way the market can figure out", not "regardless of cost".

Fossil fuel lobby? (1, Informative)

whiteboy86 (1930018) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665386)

The state subsidy for coal electricity is absurdly high, it is still like 10x more then for renewable energy. No wonder expensive green energy projects can't compete.

Pickens wants water (4, Interesting)

NotAGoodNickname (1925512) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665398)

Pickens is a scumbag. He doesn't care about Wind Power, he wants water. He used the guise of wind-power to try to grab land to transport water. Don't believe me? Read this: http://earthfirst.com/%E2%80%9Cblue-gold%E2%80%9D-t-boone-pickens-and-the-privatization-of-water/ [earthfirst.com]

Re:Pickens wants water (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665430)

I fail to see a problem here. Electricity is generally considered to be a necessary staple of living in the US, yet we pay people to generate and deliver it to us. Why should water, with appropriate regulation in place, not be privatized?

Re:Pickens wants water (0)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665520)

Electricity is a luxury, not a necessity for life. We can live without electricity, life isn't as comfortable. If you do not have water, you can die in days, if not hours.

Re:Pickens wants water (1)

SumterLiving (994634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665554)

Die in hours? Really? In what world do you live in? Even in my tent located in the Gobi Desert I've gone 6 hours without one sip of water.

Re:Pickens wants water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665776)

In what world do you live in?

lol, classic.

Re:Pickens wants water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665678)

Without electricity 99% of us can't do our jobs, so the economy grinds to a halt and we all starve to death because we are no longer providing value.

Re:Pickens wants water (1)

NotAGoodNickname (1925512) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665756)

Then he needs to just be honest and not try to pretend he is doing Wind Power because he thinks its a good idea. He wants free land use rights to use them for water pipelines, not electricity. Screw him, if he wants the land to build his water pipelines then he needs to spends his own billions to get it. This man sucks but what do we expect from an oil baron.

Re:Pickens wants water (1)

superdude72 (322167) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665886)

Why should water, with appropriate regulation in place, not be privatized?

A better question would be, what do ratepayers have to gain by allowing water to be sold to them by a regulated monopoly--with all the adminstrative overhead and bureaucracy that entails--rather than simply having the government own the water system outright?

Re:Pickens wants water (1)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665598)

Ok he's a scumbag for trying to build a water pipeline and sell water. So, if there is no pipline and there is a drought the city can use water rationing and raise rates, but at least they won't be buying water from the evil man. Yup makes perfect sense to me.

Re:Pickens wants water (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665694)

On the other hand, maybe it will force the cities to be more self-reliant when it comes to water. Currently, water is wasted and few cities want to recover waste water because of the 'yuck' factor; yet, the water from those recovery facilities is just as clean as from anywhere else. It's the cities' problem, let them solve it without sucking aquifers dry.

Re:Pickens wants water (1)

NotAGoodNickname (1925512) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665766)

No he is an evil man for pretending that he is interested in Wind Power and using that to try to get land to use for water pipelines. Your reading comprehension stinks.

He didn't pull out just for market concerns (4, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665402)

It wasn't just the price of wind that was an issue. From TFA:

Pickens placed a $1.5 billion wind turbine order from GE. But the problem: transporting the energy from West Texas to the rest of the state. Pickens planned to build his own transmission, but the approvals fell through, says economist Mike Giberson at Texas Tech.

This isn't an issue of relative energy cost. This is an issue of not being given permission to build the basic infrastructure he needed for his system to work.

Re:He didn't pull out just for market concerns (1)

asto21 (1797450) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665458)

Whaaaaaat? The oil cartel didn't allow him permission to build infrastructure for wind energy?

Re:He didn't pull out just for market concerns (2)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665582)

Pickens is an Oil Cartel, Texas and Texans know how these guys think, would you want your electricity and water coming from an Enron?

Re:He didn't pull out just for market concerns (2)

Flambergius (55153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665482)

Anyone seen any reports on what approvals those were and on what grounds were they denied? Two minutes on Google didn't come up with anything useful.

Re:He didn't pull out just for market concerns (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665500)

Part of the issue was that he also wanted to move water on the same throughfares, believing that water was going to be a bigger commodity than electricity. He needed both to make it uberprofitable, he ended up getting none.

While I question his motives in much of this, I do think that he is right in that we should be investing money in electrical infrastructure and wind power. Once more electric cars hit the market, we are going to hit a wall that will raise rates astronomically, and of course, make gasoline power more attractive, slowing down adoption. What is a crying shame is that our tax dollars went to "stimulus" that mainly did little to help us in the long run. If you are going to spend that kind of money (and you shouldn't have to start with), it should have been spent on something with lasting value: transmission lines, bridges, other infrastructure.

Re:He didn't pull out just for market concerns (1)

Flambergius (55153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665574)

I can see how moving water might make it more complex approval process, as that probably requires permissions from different regulators, but hopefully that wasn't the reason the project was denied permissions. I mean, if you're building infrastructure, doesn't it make sense to build as much of it as you can on the same area of land?

Re:He didn't pull out just for market concerns (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665852)

The stimulus package included many billions of dollars specifically marked for upgrading the grid. While this may seem like no big deal, I'm told that it's one of the biggest single investments in the grid (especially R&D) in decades. And there would have been more except that the funds had to be spent immediately and thus many non-shovel-ready projects were left out. We could do a lot more with a second stimulus package. Unfortunately, as your post illustrates, people are so misinformed about the package that the chances of it happening are zero. Oh, the irony.

  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jan/24/obama-gives-more-details-stimulus/ [washingtontimes.com]

no matter how wealthy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665486)

One billionaire won't do much against 100,000 millionaires working against you.

Not that I want to start yet another political flame war, but isn't republicans philosophy that money trickles down from the wealthy? Here is a perfect example of how even if you want to spend all your money, you can't.

Re:He didn't pull out just for market concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665488)

It would be a nice job for an investigative journalist to look for some connection between oil company's and sate(local) planners.

Re:He didn't pull out just for market concerns (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665508)

That is a real shame - plain and simple. I might have hoped a less distracted President might have made green energy more of a priority.

Re:He didn't pull out just for market concerns (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665672)

Right of ways and land use permissions are part of the process of quantifying how well something works economically. Such things are used regularly in arguing against some forms of mining/energy production. Yet, here it's not taken as being relevant to the economics of the venture.

Nice to be able to pick and choose. This is sorta like loading the whole defense budget of the US on nuclear or oil as a subsidy when arguing against them.

Solving the wrong problem (2)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665424)

The failure of T. Boone Pickens has nothing to do with "market forces". It has to do with trying to solve the wrong problem. Or not even understanding what the problem is in the first place. Just because you're rich doesn't mean you know what you're talking about.

I keep hearing the phrase "reduce our dependence on foreign oil" associated with things like wind turbines and nuclear power. Maybe somebody should do a little research and discover that 1% of the electricity in the U.S. is generated using oil as fuel. Unless you're planning on cars, trucks, buses and trains powered by wind turbines or nuclear reactors, how exactly does this "reduce our dependence on foreign oil"?

Re:Solving the wrong problem (1)

Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665462)

That would be part II of his plan -- replace natural gas power generation capacity with wind, and use the saved natural gas to replace oil as a transportation fuel. 1 gallon of saved compressed natural gas is 1 gallon of fuel for a vehicle. It was fairly sane in that respect, I just don't think CNG stands a chance of taking off in the US. It's extremely hard to transition to a new transportation fuel due to the well modeled chicken/egg problems with fueling stations. And if we're going to try to transition to a new fuel, better to pick something more long term than CNG.

Re:Solving the wrong problem (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665540)

I am no expert but I wonder if the majority air/water pollution is coming from automobiles, trucks, and buses. It would stand to reason that by cleaning up these pollutants first, we would have a greater impact that looking at electricity generation alone. Again, an example of a misguided, politically driven idea.

Re:Solving the wrong problem (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665638)

I would think there's lots of replacements for CNG. Methane? You have to spend energy compressing it but you can get it for free from shit.

Re:Solving the wrong problem (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665708)

Compressing NG isn't that big of a deal, Our public transit buses run on CNG and they compress their own at the bus park; and it's not much more complicated to dual fuel personal vehicles. Farmers often supplement their diesel fuel in equipment with propane to get more horsepower out of it for heavy work. CNG handles about the same as propane and there are plenty of propane refillers, most rural areas heat with propane so there is a lot more infrastructure and experience than you'd imagine.

Re:Solving the wrong problem (1)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665476)

Pickens's idea was as follows:
1) while 1% of our electricity is from oil, about 25% is from gas.
2) Replace that 25% with wind.
3) Take the gas freed up and use it to power vehicles.
Result: Reduction of foreign oil.

Now, the problems with that plan were:
1) Wind is variable, and therefor cannot be used to replace base load generation, which is where much of the gas is used.
2) Wind power needs land. The land that has good wind is NOT where people need power, so you need to build transmission lines to move the power where it is needed.
3) BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) will oppose both your wind farms and your transmission lines.

The only real way this sort of idea would have worked would have been if every wind turbine also had enough local storage (e.g. vanadium redox batteries) to store power so that you could make the turbine act like base load power. Normal power company policy is to take the baseplate power (e.g. 2 MW peak) and divide by 10 for wind. So, if each wind generator had roughly 5MW-Hour of storage, you could then average over 2 days, and make each turbine "act like" a 200kW base load generator. Of course, redox batteries aren't cheap, and the total cost of land+turbine+battery+transmission lines+shutting the BANANAs up is >> the current costs to make electricity with coal or gas.

Re:Solving the wrong problem (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665552)

Pickens's idea was as follows: 1) while 1% of our electricity is from oil, about 25% is from gas. 2) Replace that 25% with wind. 3) Take the gas freed up and use it to power vehicles. Result: Reduction of foreign oil.

Now, the problems with that plan were:

That is still flawed logic. Again, I am not expert but my guess is that you might free up enough oil to last two days at present U.S. consumption. With the rate at which automobiles increase on the road every year, any short term benefit realized is quickly negated.

Re:Solving the wrong problem (2)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665512)

You are quite correct, but you're misunderstanding the error. People know that a significant portion of our electric generation is from natural gas (24%) [doe.gov] , and they know that the majority of the world's reserves are in the Middle East [naturalgas.org] . What you need to correct them on is the reasonable (but false) assumption that what portion of our supply we import comes from there and not Canada [doe.gov] .

Re:Solving the wrong problem (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665530)

The failure of T. Boone Pickens has nothing to do with "market forces". It has to do with trying to solve the wrong problem. Or not even understanding what the problem is in the first place. Just because you're rich doesn't mean you know what you're talking about.

I keep hearing the phrase "reduce our dependence on foreign oil" associated with things like wind turbines and nuclear power. Maybe somebody should do a little research and discover that 1% of the electricity in the U.S. is generated using oil as fuel. Unless you're planning on cars, trucks, buses and trains powered by wind turbines or nuclear reactors, how exactly does this "reduce our dependence on foreign oil"?

Now that is the best argument I've heard thus far! T. Boone Pickens would have been better off investing in green energy for powering the transportation industry. Unfortunately, Americans seem to hold the wealthy on undeserved pedestals. Pickens conclusion was quite far off. Mod the parent up!

Re:Solving the wrong problem (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665544)

I keep hearing the phrase "reduce our dependence on foreign oil" associated with things like wind turbines and nuclear power. Maybe somebody should do a little research and discover that 1% of the electricity in the U.S. is generated using oil as fuel. Unless you're planning on cars, trucks, buses and trains powered by wind turbines or nuclear reactors, how exactly does this "reduce our dependence on foreign oil"?

I think the idea is that people would buy electric cars and hence start putting far more load on the electricity grid instead of going to filling stations. It is a long way off but the idea of running your personal transportation device on stuff that explodes to provide momentum is doomed in the long run. Electric is the way to go as we already have a way of distributing it around the country so you can save on infrastructure:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1705518,00.html [time.com]

Israel is far more serious about moving away from oil as the population has a better understanding of where the money they spend on oil goes: Some of it is donated to the likes of Hamas and it comes flying back to the Israel in the form of a rocket. Every one knows that some Saudi money is diverted to terrorism:

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/031215/15terror.htm [usnews.com]

Most of the 9-11 bombers were from Saudi or had saudi ties: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijackers_in_the_September_11_attacks [wikipedia.org]

This is the best reason for getting away from our dependence on middle east oil, most of the countries that have large amounts of oil are distinctly Muslim and while their leaders might be friendly with our leaders the people in those countries often have more sympathy with the terrorists than the do with us decadent westerners.

Re:Solving the wrong problem (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665734)

"decadent westerners"??? Hmm...child brides? Women with no rights? Persecution of non-Muslim minorities? No concept of human (as opposed to religious) rights? Support for some Muslim sects killing other Muslim sects, 'cause, you know, Allah wills it? And you are calling Westerners decadent?

"Market Forces" (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665526)

You mean, heavy subsidization by the US Tax Payer? Those aren't market forces, it is stealing from the poor to give to the rich, to make them wealthier? I'll pass.

Its The WATER stupid (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665538)

This had nothing to do with wind or electricity. This plan was a blatant attempt to steal water from Amarillo and sell it to Dallas with no compensation for the water. Amarillo and the Texas panhandle is running out of water at an alarming rate. The Pickens wind energy plan was just a ruse.

The conspiracy: (1, Interesting)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665618)

I was wondering how the crowd that claims wind and other renewables are more economical than anything else would spin this.

It can't possibly be that he lost money, if it's so economical. So, it must have been something else, like a secret agenda that required him to lose money for a greater gain.

A bit like the 200 mpg carburetor that the big corporations are keeping secret.

But, obviously I must be part of the conspiracy, since I'm not out supporting the 200 mpg carbu... I mean wind farms, enthusiastically enough.

Yeah, I'll get mod bombed for this, but big deal. I've got so many +5 informatives that I'm hardly worried. ;)

Re:The conspiracy: (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665840)

Wind and renewables would be more economical, if the US government would act in the national interest by using tariffs to eliminate the massive trade deficits to Asia and the Middle East.

US oil peaked nearly three decades ago. US natural gas peaked in 2001. Coal and biofuels have not made up the difference for transportation uses. Even nuclear remains a black sheep.

Instead, the US is intent on continuing to trade blood for oil and selling out the country to foreigners. It's sad, but apparently it's what you idiots want.

Re:The conspiracy: (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665876)

He was denied approval to build any of the electric transmission lines needed to transport power from these wind farms to cities but do go on with that old troll.

BUILD more nuke plants and then in 2040 fusion! (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665634)

BUILD more nuke plants and then in 2040 fusion!

Only put the satellite microwave ones in areas away from where people live.

Blame Natural Gas also (1)

cblguy2 (1796986) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665674)

Back in 2008, natural gas prices had spiked, and it "appeared" (at least temporarily) that they might stay rather expensive. Texas is very dependent upon natural gas for electricity, so "wind power" was almost economical.

Now, in 2010, with more sources of natural gas seeming to 'pop up' due to the additional drilling in Texas over the last couple years, NG is cheap again. Wind generated electricity costs twice as much as natural gas generated electricity right now. So unless a business is just wanting to "appear green", there's no economic incentive to buy wind power right now. Would you pay twice the price for electricity just to "say" you're buying wind power?

Pickens is above all else a business man. If it won't make money, there's no point in doing it.

Strip off the Greenwash (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665712)

Picken's plan - to grab loads of pork.

profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665736)

1. Buy $2 billion worth of renewable energy products
2. take huge tax deduction
3. realize that someone made a huge mathematical error and this not going to work
4. sell products to Canada where they are required by law
5. PROFIT

Re:profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665770)

1. Buy $2 billion worth of renewable energy products for the tax deduction, rebates, subsidies, kickbacks, free advertisement knowing it was not going to work
2. sell products to Canada where they are required by law
3. PROFIT

He never intended to use wind. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34665780)

He owns large amounts of land with lots of natural gas, he never intended to put up any wind turbines.

Environmental Forces is Part of the Problem (1)

SumterLiving (994634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665788)

Try to develop a wind or solar farm that is "close enough to be useful" transmission lines and environmental forces will put that project on hold or even make it impossible to get permits. Sometimes the "green forces" in the US are just as bad as the so called party of No in stopping things that could make alternative energy a viable energy resource. I've seen quite of number of projects just fade into the sunset because of "the environmentalist". I personally wouldn't invest in any alternative energy project until they were ready to generate power.

Con Man Deserves to Starve (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665812)

Pickens was one of the top cowboys in getting us into this oil mess. Then he invested oil profits heavily in natural gas, which indeed did pay off: production has risen some [wikipedia.org] as consumption has risen slightly more [wikipedia.org] , but prices have doubled [wikipedia.org] , with frequent sevenfold spikes that last most of a year. Nice racket, but not good enough for a snakey oil salesman like Pickens.

So Pickens started pitching his plan to move America's cars from gasoline to natgas, switching the natgas flow away from our gas turbines. New combined cycle gas turbines get up to 85% energy efficiency, because the plants can usefully consume the heat, but cars will just pump it out into the air - at about 20% energy efficiency (or worse: about 17% for gasoline cars converted to natgas). Which all means that we'd have to burn 4-5x as much natgas to get the use in cars we do now in CCGT plants. Which means buying 4-5x as much gas, from Pickens, just to burn 80% out in his backyard.

He invested $2B in wind farms because he expected at least that much more profit from natgas. He's getting that profit anyway, without the wind farms. If he'd been serious about the wind farms, he'd have them up and running, producing power, instead of letting them depreciate and then selling them to a foreign country.

Pickens has done all he could to get us into this energy crisis, and has no skills in getting us out of one. Indeed, if oil money weren't so easy once you're in the old boy club, that old boy wouldn't have made much anywhere that takes skills that actually serve and develop a market, rather than shooting fish in a barrel - Texas style, which means oil barrel.

Give me oil or give me death (0)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 3 years ago | (#34665834)

stupid green liberal idiots. "Yes lets go green and pay 5x more for everything!"
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