Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Pickens Plan

Well, well, well. Self-made gazillionaire (through the oil business) T. Boone Pickens has a plan to wean the US off its petroleum addiction. Somehow, he's decided that we don't need more oil, we need more wind (as if DC weren't already oversupplying that).
No doubt, this will take massive government subsidies to get up and running, and then with the regulated guaranteed profit levels of all power utilities. Hmm.

So this is a great investment, but it needs government money to make it good?

Sounds like the ethanol boondoggle all over again. E85 is cheaper than regular grad unleaded gasoline at the stations I passed this morning, but that ignores the huge subsidies we (as in We the People) pay to such otherwise-poverty-stricken outfits as Archer-Daniels-Midland so they can turn corn into alcohol. (I think Jim Beam and Jack Daniels do the same thing, don't they?)

OK, ignore the tax and cost portion for a moment. Does anyone really for a moment believe that the wind blows constantly and consistently enough to be the source of our electrical power? Certainly no one who's ever been in a sailboat thinks that. Certainly no one who ever had to depend on a windmill to pump water and grind grain thinks that.

This, of course, is the same kind of objection that is often raised regarding solar power - what about cloudy / overcast / rainy / snowy / et cetera-y days? and it is a valid objection in both cases.
However -
Why is no one following up on solar power from satellites? A fleet of satellites with large solar panels could easily beam down vast amounts of power to the Earth, with no concern for the weather conditions in any particular locale. The power (in the form of microwaves) would be collected and converted to electricity by antenna farms on the ground. In fact, they could even be precisely that - farms. There's no reason a wide-grid microwave antenna couldn't be strung over a field where cattle could graze, or where grains or other crops could be grown - we're not talking beams with the localized punch of a microwave oven, after all.

If we really want to get serious about breaking our dependency on oil - and especially on foreign oil - the best thing to do is to get about drilling for domestic oil, and using the profits - which would now stay here in the States - to fund the R&D necessary to get other forms of energy to the point where they're actually economically viable, rather than where they can be supported by taxes to the point where they kind of look affordable.
The first "Oil" company that truly embraces the idea of being an "Energy" company will be far ahead of its competitors, both in a competitive sense, and in a PR sense.

Of course, this all makes too much sense, I suppose, so it's doomed never to happen.

(PS - I'm all for nuclear plants as well, but that didn't really fit with the other thoughts here. More on that later.)