Al Gore, T. Boone Pickens and the Future of American Energy Security

If you glance quickly at the headlines of the newspapers, you would think that Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens would be in agreement on some things. Gore announced a bold plan to end America’s addiction to oil. Pickens did the same thing. Gore said that America needs to invest a lot more in renewable energy. Pickens said the same thing. And both seemed to condemn the Republican plan to drill more in America. Except that they didn’t. Gore condemned Republicans. Pickens said that Republicans were right to want to drill.

In actuality, Gore’s plan is science fiction. He believes that the world is coming to an end, and that only he has the plan to save it. But his plan is fanciful. He wants to scrap just about every non-renewable energy source in 10 years, and require that we all go renewable. Under the Gore plan, we scrap coal, scrap oil, scrap natural gas.

As Vincent Carroll of the Rocky Mountain News put it: “Gore proposed last week that the United States ‘commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.’ Not just all new electricity, mind you, which would be challenging enough. But all existing electricity, too.

“This would of course require utilities to mothball hundreds of existing power plants as they launched a crash construction program of solar plants, wind farms and transmission lines costing hundreds of billions and perhaps trillions of dollars … Gore would subject 300 million people to an experiment in which baseload power that is needed 24 hours a day to keep the economy — and our livelihoods — humming is replaced willy nilly by power sources still susceptible to natural disruption (such as lack of wind or lingering cloud cover), that cost more (at least in the case of solar) and are far less plentiful in some regions than others (Colorado is lucky at least in that regard).

“He'd inflict monumental utility price hikes on consumers who'd pay for both the shutdown of old plants and construction of the new — with who knows what economic fallout.”

In other words, Gore’s plan is crazy. It will be a complete disaster for the economy, and it is based on the supposition that we are all doomed if we don’t follow his plan to the tee. Pure science fiction.

Pickens, on the other hand, has a plan to wean America off of the teat of foreign oil. He believes that we should drill everywhere, but as we drill, we should also diversify to include renewables like wind.

Anyone who has ever watched “The Wizard of Oz” knows that America’s heartland is home to some of the windiest places on earth. Pickens has already invested millions in wind farms in Texas, and is willing to invest billions to stretch that footprint from Mexico to Canada.

It sounds fanciful, except that it is not, really. The hard part is building a grid to capture the electricity that comes from the wind.

Pickens is spending a lot of money promoting his plan. It is based not on the shaky assumption that the world will end tomorrow, but on the more realistic assumption that America is too reliant on foreign energy resources.

Even The New York Times thinks he is on to something. “T. Boone Pickens, the legendary wildcatter and corporate raider, has decided that drilling for more oil is not the answer to the nation’s energy problems. President Bush should listen to his fellow Texan and longtime political ally.”

Pickens also believes we should try all of the above when it comes energy security. Nuclear? Yes. Offshore oil? Yes. ANWR? Yes. Wind? Yes. Natural gas? Yes.

In that way, he is a lot like congressional Republicans, who believe that everything should be on the table when it comes to American energy security.

Congressional Democrats, on the other hand, are in the Gore camp. They keep taking things off the table. Nuclear? No. Offshore oil? No. ANWR? No.

By putting more options on the table, Pickens and Republicans increase the odds that we have more energy produced in America at lower prices, and more economic security for our citizens.

By taking more things off the table, Gore and the Democrats increase the odds that we will continue to be addicted to foreign oil at higher prices, and that our nation’s economic security will be placed in grave danger. But Gore doesn’t seem to care too much about that. He is the hero of his own science fiction novel, and nothing will change the ending for him.


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