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T. Boone Pickens Discusses Alternative Energy Plan at Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Meeting


By Patrick O'Grady
Phoenix Business Journal
December 11, 2008


T. Boone Pickens brought trucking and solar power into his discussion
Thursday morning on reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Speaking to a breakfast audience at the Greater Phoenix Chamber of
Commerce conference on energy, Pickens proposed steps to wean the country
off oil with a mix of wind power and natural gas. Since Arizona is a
hotbed for neither, Pickens added solar power to the discussion, saying
the Western states could do with solar what he’s proposing for a central
wind corridor.

“There’s no question Arizona’s been out front, and it came from air
quality (issues),” he said.

The Valley has had to search for alternative fuel blends for years to
battle air quality issues and adhere to mandates from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. Pickens’ plan takes that a step further:
He proposes switching the nation’s trucking fleet over to natural gas,
claiming that alone would reduce U.S. dependence on oil by 38 percent.

Pickens said Phoenix-based Swift Transportation Co. Inc., for example,
could switch its fleet to natural gas in a matter of a few years by
converting or buying new about 7,000 trucks a year. At similar turnover
rates, the country could convert about 1 million trucks to natural gas in
the next several years, he said.

His plan calls for wind power of about 200,000 megawatts a year to be
generated along the country’s central corridor, from Texas to North
Dakota. That could take the place of natural gas in electric generation
for utilities, he said, allowing that fuel to be used in vehicles instead.

With an annual expense of between $200 billion and $700 billion for
foreign oil, depending on the price per barrel, Pickens said the nation
needs to do something within the next few years or it risks becoming
increasingly dependent on oil from unstable areas of the globe.
“Divine intervention is what you’re witnessing,” he said. “We have shown
up with a fuel that can replace oil.”

Pickens, a billionaire who made his fortune in the oil industry, agrees
with calls for more drilling in the U.S., but said the combined reserves
won’t be enough to satisfy the country’s needs, so alternatives must be sought.

“He’s come up with a plan that’s really gutsy,” said Steve Wheeler,
executive vice president for customer service and regulation at Arizona
Public Service Co.

While Pickens’ plan is geared heavily toward wind power and natural gas,
Arizona business and political leaders have staked the state’s fortunes on
solar because of the abundance of sunshine here.

Officials with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council have been trying to
lure solar companies to the Valley for manufacturing, and they are gearing
up to push for more state incentives for the industry in the 2009
legislative session.

APS is preparing to build the Solana Generating Station, which will be the
largest solar electric generation plant in the world, at 280 megawatts.
The plant is slated to be constructed in the next few years near Gila
Bend, southwest of Phoenix.

 

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