T. Boone Pickens is being lionized for his “socially responsible” efforts to legislate national “clean” wind and solar energy mandates.
We’re “the Saudi Arabia of wind,” he argues. We need to “overcome our addiction to foreign oil,” by harnessing that wind to replace natural gas in electricity generation, and using that gas to power more cars and buses. If Congress would simply “mandate the formation of wind and solar transmission corridors, and renew the subsidies” for this renewable energy, America can achieve this transformation in ten years, he insists.
Pickens’ pitch makes good ad copy, especially in league with Senator Harry Reid’s bombast about oil, gas and coal “making us sick.” However, his policy prescriptions would impose vast new energy, economic and environmental problems.
Hydrocarbon fuels created America, gave us the technologies and living standards we enjoy today, enabled us to eradicate diseases that plagued earlier generations, and boosted our life expectancy from 50 in 1900 to nearly 80 today. They still provide 85% of our energy, and we could greatly reduce our reliance on oil imports if we would simply end the outrageous policies that keep our nation’s abundant energy resources locked up.
We have enough oil, natural gas, oil shale, coal and uranium to provide power for centuries. We have a growing consensus that we need to drill, onshore and off. But partisan intransigence and absurd environmental claims prevent us from utilizing them. Instead, we’re offered bromides like wind.
Wind contributes more every year to our energy mix. However, it still provides only 1% of our electricity – compared to 49% for coal, 22% for natural gas, 19% for nuclear and 7% for hydroelectric.
Wind power is intermittent, unreliable, noisy and expensive (even with subsidies). Many modern turbines are 400 feet tall and carry 130-foot-long, 7-ton blades that slice up raptors and other birds. They operate only 8 hours a day, on average, compared to 85% of the time for coal, gas and nuclear plants. They rarely provide power during peak summer daytime hours, when air-conditioning demand is highest, but wind speed is low to nonexistent.
Using wind to replace all gas-fired power plants would require some 300,000 1.5-MW turbines, covering Midwestern “wind belt” acreage equivalent to South Carolina. The noise, scenic impacts and bird kills caused by such an “eco-friendly” energy source defy imagination.
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