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T. Boone Pickens: The U.S. Needs a 'Wind Bank'


By Martin LaMonica
Green Tech - CNET News
January 21, 2009


Billionaire and clean-energy proponent T. Boone Pickens
said that the U.S. should establish a federally funded loan program, or bank, to
finance large-scale wind developments.

Pickens spoke on Wednesday at the Clean-Tech Investor Summit here where he
talked about his Pickens Plan for reducing imports of foreign oil. He also
offered a number of energy policy recommendations.

His plan, launched in July, calls for spending $150 billion over the next 10
years to install turbines in the "wind corridor" of the Midwest United States,
from Texas to Canada. The other major plank of the plan is to convert vehicles
to run on domestic natural gas.

In both areas--wind and natural gas--Boone has business interests. If completed,
his Mesa Power wind project will make 4,000 megawatts of electricity, which
would make it one of the largest wind farms, capable of powering 1.3 million homes.

Boone has made a down payment on $2 billion worth of General Electric wind
turbines, which are set for delivery in 2011. The credit crisis, however, has
disrupted the financing for the project, although Boone still thinks the project
will get done.

"There's no money to finance it, but I think it's all going to happen. I'm an
optimistic entrepreneur type," he said.

To help wind developers and achieve the Pickens Plan target of 20 percent of
electricity from wind, Boone said that the U.S. government should establish a
"wind bank" that would give wind developers loans.

A wind bank would be a "fraction" of the projected $825 million in federal
spending on a stimulus package, he said. It would also be cheaper than
continuing to spend money on foreign oil, he argued.

Pickens says he is not opposed to other clean energy technologies, like
battery-powered cars. But heavy-duty vehicles can't run on batteries
effectively. One diesel garbage truck emits as much pollution as 350 cars.
To overcome that, he proposes an investment of $28 billion to purchase 350,000
heavy trucks that run on natural gas. The fueling infrastructure will follow
once those trucks are on the road and corporations start to replace their fleets.

"You cannot get to the conclusion that we can reduce foreign oil in a
significant way without using natural gas," he said.

The oil tycoon and life-long Republican has advised a number of politicians on
how to cut oil imports. He has also spent $58 million on a public awareness
campaign, which he says is successful because the media and politicians now
regularly talk about energy.

Back story on the Pickens Plan

In a briefing with reporters, Pickens offered some color on how he decided to launch the plan.

He met with former President Bush in April 2008 to urge him to adopt the core
ideas of the Pickens Plan and establish an "energy legacy."

Bush's response, according to Boone, was that he wouldn't have enough time to
meet the goals. Six weeks later, Boone had still gotten no response from the
Bush administration.

One night at two o'clock in the morning, he woke his wife up and told her:
"Somebody's got to do this." Shortly after, he began work on the public
awareness campaign.

"I said, 'Hell, it's up to me.' I honestly felt it was the patriotic thing to
do. I'm 80, I got the money to do it, so let's just go ahead and do it," he explained.

He said if current trends continue, the U.S. will be importing 75 percent of its
oil in 2019--more than today--and be paying high prices--in the $200 to $300
range--because of the supply cannot keep up with the demand.

In doing focus groups in conjunction with launching the Pickens Plan, the
billionaire found that many Americans don't believe what politicians say about
energy. But he said he doesn't fault them. "They're not lying. They really don't
understand energy," he said.

Pickens met with Barack Obama during the campaign and has met with his
transition team twice. He says it's clear that the administration is committed
to green technology.

"(Obama) is a charismatic guy. I think he can pull it off and it will bring
everybody together," he said.

 

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