Posts Tagged ‘natural gas’

Oilman turned wind wildcatter T. Boone Pickens met with presumptive Republican presidential nominee  John McCain Friday morning to pump his Pickens Plan to wean the United States from imported oil by shifting electricity production to wind farms and using natural gas to fuel cars and trucks. On Sunday, he’ll hook up with Democrat Barack Obama.

The McCain meeting was “good…very relaxed,” Pickens said Friday during a conference call with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to promote next week’s National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. “It was a free flowing discussion. I presented the Pickens Plan to him, and he asked a lot of questions about it. He feels like I’m an energy expert, and he wanted information.”

Pickens began a campaign in July to foster a bipartisan approach to reducing the U.S.’s dependence on imported oil, declaring the “the United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind power.” Pickens is building the nation’s largest wind farm in Texas, and he has an interest in a natural gas transportation company.

Though Nevada Democrat Reid remarked, “Who would have thought that T. Boone Pickens and Sen. Harry Reid would have been in same boat pulling the oars same way,” Pickens made clear he’s no latter-day Al Gore.

“I’d open it all up to drilling – OCS, ANWAR,” he said, referring to the outer continental shelf and the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge – the third rail of environmental politics.

“The one place I differ with Senator McCain is that I said if you’re going to open the OCS, throw in ANWAR too,” Pickens added.

Gore and other greens have questioned the viability and environmental impact of using natural gas for transportation. Pickens, on the other hand, said he isn’t opposed to electric cars. But, he added, “We can’t make a big cut [in oil imports] in ten years without using natural gas as a transportation fuel.  Use it for trucks and let them do what they want with cars.”

For Reid’s part, he said offshore drilling was still on the table, but he’s pushing for Congress to extend the renewable energy investment tax credit that expires at the end of the year. Scores of wind and solar projects – like the massive photovoltaic power plants that California utility PG&E (PCG) unveiled Thursday with SunPower (SPWR) and OptiSolar – are contingent upon Congress renewing the 30% tax credit.

“We have people standing by willing to invest billions of dollars in renewable energy,” Reid said. “The future is not in a commodity that was discovered in the 18th century. The future is sun, wind, geothermal.”

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NEW YORK – T. Boone Pickens dropped by Fortune’s offices last Thursday, and not surprisingly the billionaire oilman had oil on his mind as gas prices hit yet another new high.

“The only way you’re going to kill demand is with price increases,” Pickens, 80, told a group of editors and writers. “But demand is not as easy to kill as you think.”

The legendary Dallas wildcatter and corporate dealmaker believes the world is approaching “peak oil” – meaning we’ve pumped out more oil than remains in the ground – and he’s looking beyond the petroleum age by placing some big bets on wind. His $12 billion Pampa Wind Project in Texas will generate enough electricity to power some 1.3 million homes when completed in 2014. (Last week Pickens’ Mesa Power placed an order for 667 turbines with General Electric (GE) for the project’s $2 billion first phase.)

For Pickens, wind is key to weaning the U.S. from the petrol pump. “The only transportation fuel we have in the U.S. to replace oil is natural gas,” he said.

Here’s how it would work, according to Pickens. Replace the natural gas power plants that generate about a quarter of the electricity in the United States with wind farms. Use the freed-up natural gas to power cars, trucks and other vehicles. “We could reduce oil imports by 38 percent,” Pickens declared.

The U.S Department of Energy earlier this month released a report estimating that wind power could supply up to 20 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030. Huge hurdles stand in the way of achieving that target, such as the need for a massive upgrade to the transmission system and the fact that the wind blows intermittently. And natural gas-powered cars won’t be as clean as, say, electric vehicles powered from solar.

Wind isn’t the only green energy source on Pickens’ horizon. I ask him about large-scale solar and he pulls out a map illustrating the best spots for solar power plants in the U.S. “I like it,” he says. “We’re looking at all renewable energy.”

As he put it earlier in the conversation, “I’ve been too early on a lot of things, but now I have enough money to be as early as I want.”

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