A recent editorial in the Carteret County News-Times, for which I worked for 24 or 25 years – I’m getting old and too lazy to quibble with my memory when it isn’t exact – stated that “We can drill our way out” of our gas-price problem.
The night after reading the editorial in what has in recent years become an extremely right-wing, Bush-lovin', Dem-hatin' fact-ignorin' paper on its editorial page, I saw a television spot on T. Boone Pickens’ energy plan.
This is the gist of my letter to the editor of the newspaper.
I offer it here in hopes that it will inspire those of you who may not have looked at Pickens’ proposals to do so.
To the editor:
Your June 13 editorial, “We can drill our way out,” received an almost immediate rejoinder this past week from no less an expert than U.S. billionaire oilman and investor T. Boone Pickens. In announcing his plan to begin to put this great country on the road to energy independence, Pickens put it rather bluntly: “I've been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of.”
(In case you Bushies out there are sharpening your pencils to protest that Pickens is a purveyor of hate-filled diatribes against the right wing, he was a huge financial contributor to el presidente and gave sizeable amounts to the Swift Boaters who attacked John Kerry in 2004.)
“World oil production peaked in 2005. Despite growing demand and an unprecedented increase in prices, oil production has fallen over the last three years,” Pickens added on the website for his plan. “Oil is getting more expensive to produce, harder to find and there just isn't enough of it to keep up with demand. The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone.
“What's the good news?
The United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind power.”
Of course, one can argue that Pickens is touting wind energy, as well as solar energy, because he’s a capitalist, a very smart one, and he plans to make a lot of money off of alternative energy investments. One would be at least partly right in making that argument: In 2007, he announced that he intends to build the world’s largest wind far in Texas.
But Pickens, while fabulously wealthy, does not seem to have a proclivity toward greed. Rather, he seems to like to give a lot of his money away. He and employees of his BP Capital LLC donated $7 million to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy lists Pickens as one of the largest charitable givers 2005 and 2006. He has donated nearly a half a billion dollars to philanthropic causes during his career.
And while I tend to be somewhat suspicious of the motives of many tycoons, it would appear that if Pickens were all about short-term personal gain he would be urging more drilling, not less, as tapping into that “more expensive to produce” oil would simply enrich him more.
I think Pickens, having reached the point in life where he and all of his heirs most likely can live out their lives in luxury, has simply decided it’s time to do the right thing, to get the country he loves headed in the right direction before he dies.
When an oil man like him says we can’t drill our way out, I tend to put faith in that statement. Or at least I trust him more than the sources you cite in your editorial, among them the usual suspects: right-wing columnist George Will and arch-conservative newspaper the Washington Times.
But even if you, Will – whose baseball writing I love - and the Times are correct and we could drill our way out, that begs that questions, “For how long?” “At what cost to the environment?” and “Should we?”
Obviously know one knows the exact answers to the first two questions. But we do know that no matter how much oil we find, eventually we’ll run out. And given our nature, finding and pumping more oil would lure us into false security that would once again delay investment in the inevitable transition away from oil.
You state in your editorial that had President Clinton not “vetoed legislation in 1995 to permit drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, we’d have that oil today. The same thing would be true if Congress had approved ANWR drilling in 2002 when President Bush requested it.”
But had we invested in alternative energy for the past 30 years – dating back to President Jimmy Carteret’s calls to do that – we’d surely be sitting in a much prettier position right now. We have to think ahead sooner or later, and the former is better than the latter.
On his website, Pickens notes that in one year, “a 3-megawatt wind turbine produces as much energy as 12,000 barrels of imported oil.
“Wind power currently accounts for 48 billion kWh of electricity a year in the United States — enough to serve more than 4.5 million households. That is still only about 1% of current demand, but the potential of wind is much greater.
“A 2005 Stanford University study found that there is enough wind power worldwide to satisfy global demand 7 times over — even if only 20% of wind power could be captured.
“Building wind facilities in the corridor that stretches from the Texas panhandle to North Dakota could produce 20% of the electricity for the United States at a cost of $1 trillion. It would take another $200 billion to build the capacity to transmit that energy to cities and towns.
“That's a lot of money, but it's a one-time cost. And compared to the $700 billion we spend on foreign oil every year, it's a bargain.”
I believe Pickens knows what he’s talking about. If you want to read more, go to http://push.pickensplan.com/