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Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

The No-Brainer Push for Wind Power from T. Boone Pickens

By Bryan Welch 

Tags: T Boone Pickens, Pickens Plan, wind power, wind energy,

In my last post, The Prius Effect, I said that "Pundits up and down the political spectrum doubt society’s capacity to change. The left wing expresses disappointment in our general attachment to selfish interests. The right wing resists change when it threatens its traditional way of seeing the world. The Prius Effect suggests that consumers, in general, are more flexible and inventive than most pundits imagine."

But average consumers are not the only innovative forces creating environmental change in the marketplace. T. Boone Pickens is the very embodiment of the Texas oil tycoon. Worth about $3 billion, according to Forbes magazine, he’s a militantly conservative Republican with a big house in Dallas’ prestigious Preston Hollow neighborhood and an enormous ranch in the Texas panhandle, to which he commutes on the weekends in a private jet. He’s also, arguably, the world’s leading advocate for wind energy.

In 2008, just a couple of months after his 80th birthday, Pickens published The Pickens Plan and budgeted $58 million of his own money to promote it. [1] The plan proposes the rapid development of giant wind farms across the central plains of North America, specifically to replace the electricity we are currently generating with natural gas. The natural gas could then be used, instead, to fuel clean, efficient transportation. The 80-year-old Texan billionaire made dozens of public appearances all over the country and was interviewed by every major news medium. His website for the plan,, is a masterful demonstration of the power of the digital media with a cute little animated Boone preaching about our dependence on foreign oil, with cute little animated wind turbines turning in the background. The blog is called The Daily Pickens. The site distributes widgets that help users reduce their own energy consumption and influence their own lawmakers.

With a click, visitors can join local Pickens Plan groups, take a pledge supporting the plan, join a virtual march in support of the plan, contact lawmakers through e-mail and social networks and – wow – chart their own progress as plan supporters by establishing a account, effectively grading their own level of commitment.

 The Boone Cam has recorded hundreds of cinema verite encounters between Pickens and his famous supporters, from Sarah Palin to Arnold Schwarzenegger. He shows himself traveling to an appearance on the women’s talk show, The View, with Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg. “I think we reach every audience. And the reason we do is because, one, that they see me as a guy whose sincere about what he’s doing… They have confidence in what I’m talking about. If I’m seen as an honest, sincere guy and I’m pushing something that’s good for America, then I’m going to get those women with me.”

To push his plan, Pickens is conspicuously reaching out to all kinds of people who didn’t previously appear on his dance card. The revolving earth-friendly quotes at the top of the Pickens Plan homepage are from people like President Barack Obama and Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat who had previously called Pickens his “mortal enemy” when Pickens played an instrumental role in defeating Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

In Bloomberg Markets magazine’s coverage of the National Clean Energy Summit in October of 2009, Reid says, “I started taking missionary lessons from the group supporting T. Boone Pickens… I now belong to the Pickens church. He’s been a good friend and a real visionary…” [2] 

Why are Harry Reid and Whoopi Goldberg publicly giving their love to a swaggering, swashbuckling energy tycoon? Pickens is, after all, only protecting his own investments in wind power. His new role as an environmental visionary is an outgrowth of his new business as a wind-farm developer. The governmental support he is drumming up will eventually provide tax dollars to build the energy grids that are critical to his success.

The Pickens Plan is a self-serving marketing effort to support the Pickens Businesses. But in the process of building his PR machine T. Boone Pickens has given new legitimacy to wind power. By giving renewable energy a Texas drawl and a patriotic tattoo, Pickens has managed to bring wind energy’s practical benefits to light in front of tens of millions of skeptical Americans.

Like the Toyota Prius, T. Boone Pickens is pragmatic and technologically adept. He describes environmental benefits in practical terms that the average person can understand. Most remarkably, he’s voided the tribal politics that separated “tree-hugging environmentalists” from the citizens of the “conservative heartland.”

In the Pickens Plan, wind power is good for the Earth, promotes national security and enhances the U.S. economy. Millions of acres of prairie could be converted from marginally profitable farmland to highly productive power generators. Farmers and ranchers can still operate around the bases of the turbine towers. We haven’t finished measuring every environmental impact of large-scale wind power (there’s some concern about the effects on bird and bat populations), but so far it looks like an environmental and economic winner. Worldwide we doubled our windpower capacity to about 121,000 megawatts between 2005 and 2008, and about 1.5 percent of electricity consumed worldwide is generated by wind power, including 19 percent of Denmark’s power, 11 percent of Spain and Portugal’s and 7 percent of Germany’s. [3] Texas, all by itself, has more wind-power capacity than all but five countries worldwide. If we had electric transportation, its conceivable that the Great Plains could supply all North America’s energy through giant wind-power plantations.

“This is a global game-changer,” as Boone has said [4], “It’s a no-brainer.”

Bryan Welch is the Publisher and Editorial Director of Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Connect with him on .

For further optimistic discussion about our future, read Beautiful and Abundant by Bryan Welch and connect with Beautiful and Abundant on Facebook. 

[1] Allison Fass. Pickens Goes For The Grass Roots. July 11, 2008. Sourced October 27, 2009. 

[2] Kambiz Foroohar. Pickens Power Makes Al Gore Convenient Truth in U.S. Oil Policy. October 7, 2009. Sourced October 27, 2009. 

[3] Janet L. Sawin. Wind Power Increase in 2008 Exceeds 10-Year Average. Worldwatch Institute.  May 7, 2009. Sourced Nov. 1, 2009. 

[4] Jay F. Marks. T. Boone Pickens Predicts Success for Plan. Daily Oklahoman. October 30, 2009. Sourced Nov. 1, 2009. 

12/22/2009 6:49:22 PM

I wish MEN would wake up and realize that industrial wind power is a sham. While there is some use for small-scale wind generators, the industrial sized wind plants wreck the countryside, destroy local ecology, and have been indicated in causing the death of birds and the ruination of local ecologies. In Britain they are now recognized as causing health and mental health problems. Industrial wind turbines are just one more blight upon the planet, and of course the oil barons love them. Their use guarantees we will always need fossil fuel. In Europe industrial wind turbines have not reduced oil and coal power consumption by even 1% IN ANY EUROPEAN COUNTRY! That's because the wind blows when it will, not when the load on the grid is high. Now, will MEN please promote ecologically sound power sources. Not everything billing itself as green is green. Some of it is just a sham. Wake up, Mother! Whoever sold you on wind sold you a bag of wind.

12/22/2009 6:39:35 PM

Steffanie, you know what we tree huggers are a bit tired of? The blind faith of persons who believe god is going to fix it so it's all going to be okay. What if god left it in our hands to be wise? What if we can screw up so bad we wreck the planet? Need a few examples of how bad god let's people screw up? Hiroshima. The American Indians. The Nazi holocaust. The extinction of thousands of species due to overuse of habitat and exhaustion of resources. I don't think it's even worth arguing on faith over this forum anymore. Those who choose to be stick their heads in a faith hole like an ostritch will continue to do so.

12/22/2009 6:31:22 PM

i wish that i could believe that pickens, at his 80 years, was truly altruistic when he published his plan. but all wind and solar farms need to be backup with gas fired generators for periods of non-wind/solar output. and who holds one of the biggest shares of natural gas reserves? why mr. pickens. his 56 million seed money from his own stash is a drop in the bucket to what he will see once all these wind/solar farms have the requisite gas fired generating plants. dick

12/22/2009 9:26:28 AM

I live in the American southwest (SE New Mexico/west Texas to be precise) and have seen the "foot print" of the kind of wind farms that Pickens espouses. These wind farms damage and destroy the land and the landscape as surely as the local oil and gas rigs and their accompanying “tank batteries.” I am intimately aware, too, since my wife is a state naturalist and biologist of the damage these wind farms do to the migrating bird populations and other local wildlife as well. The impact of the access roads is as bad as any access road to the oil fields. I do believe in sustainable energy and wind energy is one of the best in certain areas of the country but simply changing the source of power in the larger grid does not address our consumptive and overly aggressive approach to our life on this planet. WE need to think locally toward those solutions which are not controlled by large corporations - passive solar, phot vitalic in the cities, small wind generators in local economies. Our problems stem from the corporatization and globalization of wealth in the form of control of our energy resources. We all need to stop looking for grand quick fixes to our energy problems and start looking at the more complicated and personal life style changes we all need to make. Wind "farms" are a blight on the land, pure and simple. Picken’s plan is about as self serving a plan as one can find in America and do nothing to address the real problem - our own consumer greed.

12/21/2009 7:32:36 PM

The Pickens Plan makes economic sense and with the low price of natural gas fueling cars with it would save money and reduce air pollution. The one problem is the cost of building the grid to hook up all the wind farms. A simpler solution is to build synthetic gas generators at every wind farm and use pipelines to get the gas to where it is needed. Gas is less expensive to transport and store than electricity. This solves the problem of what to do when the wind does not blow or if it blows at night when no one uses electricity. Magnegas is one company researching this approach.

11/24/2009 12:18:34 PM

Steffanie I agree we can't "ruin" the planet but we sure change it! Look what over grazing can do in a few years-- or what a beaver can do to a small creek in a season! I don't want to be the one to answer for messing up what we were given. It doesn't matter if you are "green", "a good steward of the earth" or just a Mom who wants her kids and grandkids to be able to breath clean air-- our actions will help to keep the sky from falling and God truely on our side

11/22/2009 6:08:27 AM

Fair enough, Steffanie. We disagree about human potential, but we certainly agree about clean air and clean water.

11/21/2009 2:23:45 AM

Why do people need the "climate change" fear tactics to make a good choice in energy? Pickens is right, it is good for us. This makes sence, but why does it always have to be about this ' green ' movement. Don't people know that if it's good and it's right, then it sells? I resent what you said about the right -wing. I'm ultra conservitive. You know, you don't have to be a tree hugger to know that we need clean air, clean water and clean energy. Right-wingers such as myself are just tired of hearing the sky it falling, the sky is falling... that's why all the 'green' things cost so much. It's not that we don't like change for the tradition view.. it's that we don't want to be told... you have to do this, or else. The sky is not falling.. God's in control of the planet and man's not big enough to ruin what God created, nor is man big enough to FIX IT!