Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Natural Gas P.R. Continues

(Feb. 22) -- T. Boone Pickens is seen by some as the model of the new environmentalist -- no longer the tree-hugging seal scrubber of old but a 21st-century businessman whose pursuit of profit margins happily aligns with caring for the planet.
The cowboy champion of alternative energy, dubbed "the oracle of oil" by CNBC, pursued a media blitz in 2008 for what he saw as a bright future for wind energy. But in light of recent setbacks for wind, he has thrown his weight behind natural gas, which according to an interview he gave to Melanie D.G. Kaplan of Smartplanet is "at a tipping point."
"It's been there in the ground for millions of years. There's an over-200-year supply for us," he said. "If you convert the natural gas to the barrel of oil equivalent, or BOE, you're formidable. You're bigger than Russia, Iran, Qatar. It's right here in North America. It's abundant, cheap, clean, and it's ours. It's a global energy game-changer."
Pickens' wind projects have seen trouble in the past months, most notably the death of his plans for a giant North Texas wind farm in Pampa. Cheap natural gas makes wind farms less profitable, and for an alternative energy booster who made his public reputation on dollars-and-sense capitalism, gas was a natural move.
Never one to speak softly, Pickens announced his commitment to natural gas with an ad last month linking oil use to America's wars in the Middle East. Pickens believes in global warming, but for him alternative energies were always more about national security and independence than they were about environmentalism.
Many alternative energy sources, like wind, are really a form of solar energy, meaning that wind power has the potential to last as long as the sun or the Earth. Natural gas, however, is a fossil fuel, albeit a cleaner one. Pickens believes that America has strong enough reserves to run for a long time, but the 200-year supply he cites is not infinite.
"Natural gas is not a permanent or complete solution to imported oil," the Pickens Plan Web site says. "It is a bridge fuel to slash our oil dependence while buying us time to develop new technologies that will ultimately replace fossil transportation fuels."

That bridge, however, could provide a hefty profit for Pickens, who is aiming for a 12-million-strong fleet of natural gas vehicles.

The particular tipping point to which Pickens was referring may be legislation pending in Congress that would provide tax incentives to consumers and producers of natural gas cars. A strong supporter of the proposal, Pickens lists Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., among his allies, and believes that legislation will be passed before Memorial Day.

The question for Pickens himself will be whether he can move fast enough to see these plans come to fruition. "I'm not an R&D guy," he told Smartplanet. "I figure 10 years for R and 10 years for D, and I'm 100 years old."

Filed under: Nation, Money

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