Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens: Clear path
for wind power
Jul 22, 2008 - Daily News-Money
WASHINGTON - Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens
asked Congress on Tuesday to "clear the path" for his plan
to boost use of wind and natural gas for U.S. energy needs.
Pickens has been on a $58 million publicity
tour to promote his plan to erect wind turbines in the Midwest
to generate electricity, replacing the 22 percent of U.S.
power produced from natural gas. The freed up natural gas
then could be used for transportation.
Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security
and Government Affairs Committee, Pickens said the government
should begin building transmission lines for wind-generated
power or provide the right of way on private land and extend
tax credits so the private sector can build the lines.
"If the government wanted to build a grid,
I mean, do it," he said. "But if they don't want to do it,
I think the money is there to do it private, and so it's
kind of like either do it or get out of the way, but give
us the corridors to put it in and it'll be done. You could
do this on a very, very fast track if you wanted."
Pickens suggested that Congress follow the
lead of former President Eisenhower, who declared an emergency
to build the interstate highway system in the 1950s and
Pickens has leased hundreds of thousands of
acres for a giant wind farm in West Texas, where he plans
to erect 2,700 turbines and produce energy for urban areas
such as Dallas and Fort Worth. He has run into some opposition
from West Texas landowners who are unhappy with his efforts
to obtain rights of way to build the wind farm and a pipeline
for a separate water project.
Specifically, Pickens asked Congress to extend
a 2005 law intended to speed up the creation of energy corridors,
and to give him control over any transmission lines he builds
for wind-generated power. All electric transmission lines
are now regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Pickens also called for a 10-year extension
of a tax credit for energy producers. He estimated it would
cost taxpayers $15 billion a year in production tax credits
for 200,000 megawatts of wind power.
"When you look at $700 billion dollars going
out of country every year for purchase of oil, $15 billion
is somewhat insignificant," he said.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., called Pickens'
plan bold and said he hoped Pickens' testimony would "infect
people in a position in Washington to do something about
But the oilman's plan raised questions with
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who asked if it would hurt
the chemical industry, which relies on natural gas as raw
material. He said the industry probably won't like seeing
natural gas costs increase.
Pickens estimated it would cost about $500
billion to increase wind energy production from the 4,000
megawatts to be generated at his Texas wind farm to 200,000
megawatts, the amount needed to power 20 percent of U.S.
energy needs. Transmission lines and the tax credit would
add another $15 billion.
At that level, he said, "You're approaching
about one year's supply of oil that you're buying. But don't
get the idea that replaces that oil, it doesn't. It will
only replace 38 percent."
In addition to the hearing, Pickens also met
privately Tuesday with Democratic and Republican members
of Congress as well as Texas senators.