T. Boone Pickens Town Hall Meeting

Posted: March 30, 2009

Alternative energy is a hot topic right now. A growing number of engineering students that I meet with are interested in pursuing career goals that revolve around creating greener technology. That’s why I was excited to hear that oil-tycoon-turned-renewable-domestic-energy-activist, T. Boone Pickens, was partnering with AEP CEO, Mike Morris, for a town hall style meeting to discuss the future of our country’s energy needs.

Pickens is 80 years old, and jokes that he can only remember the past 40 years. He started off the town hall meeting by recalling how in 1970, President Richard Nixon promised to put an end to America’s dependence on foreign oil. He recalled that every president since has made the same promise. In 1970, 24% of oil was imported. Today we import approximately 70%. T. Boone Pickens sees this as not only an energy crisis but also a security crisis, since much of the imported oil is coming from countries that are hostile to the US. In 2008, Pickens launched the Pickens Plan, which promotes alternative energy sources including natural gas, wind, and solar, and calls for the necessary upgrades and additions to the power transmission grid. The main proposals of the plan to reduce dependence on imported petroleum include:

1. Privately funded and installed wind turbines in the Great Plains region, which could generate enough power to provide 20% of the nation’s electricity supply.
2. Publicly funded transmission lines connecting turbines to the power grid, which would provide energy to the Midwest, South, and Western parts of the country.
3. With wind energy providing a greater amount of electricity and lessening the reliance of natural gas to fuel power plants, utilize abundance of domestic natural gas to fuel vehicles, with a focus on trucks and buses.

AEP has partnered with Pickens and, Morris sees the company’s role as twofold:

1. Advance electric hybrid vehicle technologies that will leverage off-peak demand.
2. Build up the high voltage transmission grid on a national scale.

Town hall attendees were then given the opportunity to ask questions to Pickens and Morris, which highlighted the following points:

• Wind cannot replace natural gas kilowatt hour per kilowatt hour, but efforts are being made to make wind more efficient. The goal is not to replace natural gas but simply add wind as a resource. National gas is only a bridge fuel to the next generation.
• The projected increase in cost to build up the transmission grid and incorporate wind would be approximately $1.00 extra per month per customer.
• Windmills have been considered to be built on Lake Erie; however, many Lake Erie residents have expressed NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) attitudes about the prospect. There’s another aspect to that which is a major environmental concern as well – Lake Erie is on a major migration path for millions of birds – wind turbines are a threat to birds.
• Most gas stations have the capacity for natural gas pumps, thus making vehicles powered by natural gas much more realistic. Natural gas is the second most widely distributed energy source (after electricity).
• By 2011, AEP will add 1,000 megawatts of renewable wind energy to its current generation output of 38,000 megawatts.
• AEP is pioneering distributed energy storage in the US using large NaS batteries that improve service reliability, enhance renewable energy source functionality, and reduce system peak load.
• To further “green” the city, AEP is starting installation of Smart Meters in one section of Columbus. The entire city could expect Smart Meters within the decade.

At the end of the town hall meeting, both speakers encouraged attendees to turn up the heat on local and national politicians to get serious about the energy crisis. To learn more, check out the Pickens Plans at www.pickensplan.com

"We sometimes emphasize the danger in a crisis without focusing on the opportunities that are there. We should feel a great sense of urgency because it is the most dangerous crisis we have ever faced, by far. But it also provides us with opportunities to do a lot of things we ought to be doing for other reasons anyway. And to solve this crisis we can develop a shared sense of moral purpose." (talking about the environamental crisis)
-Al Gore


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