Wind Farms: Energy For The Future? No. Making T. Boone Pickens Richer? Yes.

Everywhere you look these days, you see billionaire oil magnate T. Boone Pickens promoting wind power as the answer to America’s energy problems.
For example, here’s a story that ran yesterday in the San Antonio Business Journal,

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens told lawmakers that a switch to American-produced energy resources within the next 10 years is necessary to end the nation’s crippling $700 billion dependence on foreign oil.

Pickens, who revealed his alternative energy plan earlier this month, told the U.S. Senate Homeland and Security and Government Affairs Committee on Tuesday that the United States should be able to produce 22 percent of its electrical energy needs using wind-powered electricity, based on Department of Energy estimates.

Pickens points to the great plains, which includes parts of West Texas, as a prime location for producing wind energy resources.

…Pickens’ plan calls for lawmakers to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil by 30 percent in 10 years. It also stipulates that the country needs to rely 100 percent on energy resources produced in the United States.

At first glance, this would seem to be a curious plan because wind power produces a tiny percentage of our current energy supply, takes up an enormous amount of space, and there is very little evidence that it’s truly a promising long-term energy source for our country,

Wind power is intermittent. It is simply not available on those hot, humid dog days of summer when energy demand peaks. The same is true for those quiet (read: windless) bone-chilling days and nights of winter.

To produce the same amount of energy as a conventional gas-fired power plant, wind farms need 85 times more land area. While environmental activist groups regularly fight against a lone cell phone tower on a hill, wind tower “sprawl” casts far more sight pollution upon pristine vistas. Most folks are not amused by the blinding strobe-light sensation that takes place on wind farms at dawn and dusk, or the near-constant noise pollution, which many people find maddening.

To its credit, wind power is far more economical than solar: It is only twice as costly as electricity generated from fossil fuels.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of wind power from an environmental perspective is its devastating effect on bird populations, particularly birds of prey.

In 1991, there were over 7,000 wind turbines in Northern California’s Altamont Pass. That figure has since dropped to 5,400. Many of the earlier projects failed because they were not financially viable without substantial tax incentives and direct subsidies from taxpayers and ratepayers. Moreover, Altamont Pass is America’s “raptor killing field.” As many as 400 golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls, and kestrels are killed every year by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass.

…The Department of Energy’s “Wind Energy Initiative” calls for obtaining 5 percent of our nation’s electricity from wind turbines by the year 2020. To meet that goal will require the planting of more than 132,000 new wind turbines–a figure three times greater than the number of existing communication towers in the U.S.

So, why is T. Boone Pickens pushing wind so hard? Might I suggest that it’s because he has invested a great deal of money into wind power and wants government help getting his money back out of it? From the Wall Street Journal in Sept of last year,

“Another major venture in the works (for T. Boone Pickens) is a 4,000-megawatt wind farm to be built in Texas by Mesa Power in a plan unveiled earlier this year. It would be the world’s largest upon completion, with a cost of up to $6 billion.”

The real “Pickens’ plan” probably has a lot more to do with convincing people that billions of tax dollars need to be transferred into T. Boone Pickens’ pockets than it does with meeting America’s energy needs.

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