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An oil man who gets the energy big picture

Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens is helping to spur the renewable energy revolution our country and the world need.

You've probably seen his PickensPlan.com advertisements running over the last few days. I am one observer who is ecstatic that he is putting his resources toward such an initiative.

T. Boone Pickens is promoting a 10-year plan that would help lower US emissions and focuses on reducing our dependence on foreign oil. He has made hundreds of millions betting on the recent rise in the price of oil and gas, and firmly believes that our world is in an oil crisis as supply stagnates while demand climbs higher. He sees our current oil import bill of almost $700 billion per year as economically crippling and wants to replace oil with wind power. By increasing wind power from its current 20 gigawatts to 400 gigawatts over the next 10 years (a 35% growth rate similar to the rate of the last ten years), the plan would free up enough natural gas to run a quarter of US vehicles and lower our oil import bill by $200-plus billion per year by 2018.

Pickens is running advertisements throughout the country to get Presidential candidates to take oil scarcity seriously and make sound energy policy a top priority in their Administrative agenda. For a swift-boat veteran funder in 2004, I think his election efforts will do a lot more good this time around. Though in addition to wind, I would recommend 20 gigawatts of solar power (a similar growth rate to wind's) to provide for new energy needs as fossil fuels increase in price.

Some complain that he has an interest in wind power succeeding, so he is just being self-serving. But I think his plans to build the world's biggest wind farm in west Texas at 4 gigawatts shows he is putting his money where his mouth is. It gives his goals legitimacy. And Texas' recent approval to support 18.5 GW of transmission lines to send wind power from rural west Texas to the cities in the central and eastern part of the state makes the Pickens Plan that much more reasonable. I may not agree with Pickens on many political issues but when it comes to energy, I appreciate his contributions toward helping our country move from laggard to leader in the renewable energy revolution. His strong investments, by ordering the first GW of wind turbines for his record-breaking wind farm, shows he is not just a green talker -- but also a green walker.

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Responding to the claim "Pickens is in it for himself." What does that mean? Sure, he has aligned his business interest with an energy future that is good for our climate and our wallets. If it's good for the US and it's good for Pickens, than this win-win situation is easier to make a reality. Would you rather he invest in coal to liquids replacing oil or wind and natural gas? I'm definitely for natural gas and wind - and I applaud his efforts.

Our economy is run on greed. Unless you are ready to change the economic system, supporting businesses that can be good for our country and the global environment seems like a good use of our advocacy and other resources.

I'm glad that people are critical of the messenger - we always should be. But if the proposals have merit, the fact that the messenger benefits does not have to prevent us from embracing the vision. Is there a particular criticism that you, Allen, or others have with his plan (other than that he profits from it)?

I second your call for more solar, Dennis.

Last week's Talk of the Nation Science Friday (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92677182) featured a panel discussion on the domestic potential of solar energy.

On the program, Brad Collins of the American Solar Energy Society made the amazing point that Germany, which receives sunshine equivalent to Anchorage Alaska, is currently installing solar panels at a rate 8-times that of the U.S.

We risk being left behind technologically and missing a great opportunity to develop domestic green collar jobs.

I just heard the <a href="http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/07/31/wilkinson_ener... by Will Wilkinson of the CATO institute on Marketplace Morning Report saying that Pickens' plan to use wind power to make electricity was actually self serving so that he could use federal subsidies to switch transportation off of imported oil and to his natural gas.

If the CATO institute is against a subsidy for wind power and Pickens, they should be so very much against the much greater subsidies to the oil industry. Without these subsidies we would be paying prices at the pump that would make imported oil not market viable.

Here are a few areas where if we did not pay them out of the federal budget we would not be receiving our oil: Cash subsidy to oil companies, foreign aid to oil exporting countries, 2 aircraft carrier battle groups patrolling the Middle Eastern sea lanes, and 1 more transiting in to relieve one or coming back from being relieved, 2 regional wars, military bases in oil exporting nations, troops guarding oil pipelines, below market value oil leases on federal land, oil spill cleanups.

Pickens is it in for himself. If a company commits Greenwashing, what do you call it when an individual does it?

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