Processing Magazine

T. Boone Pickens pitches energy plan in Montana

March 2, 2009
According to the Associated Press Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens appeared with Montana''s governor to pitch his plan for decreasing the nation''s dependence on foreign oil, a strategy that could give windy states like Montana a key role. Speaking at an energy conference for leaders in business and education, Pickens said oil prices are destined to return to painful highs within the year, pumping renewed urgency into efforts for energy independence. Pickens'' plan calls for offsetting half of the nation''s foreign oil demand with natural gas and wind energy, a task he contends could be accomplished within 10 years, given the right subsidies. In September, Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer signed what is known as the Pickens Pledge, demanding an end to America''s addiction to foreign oil. Pickens said he has gathered about 2,200 such pledges from Montanans and 1.5 million total. Schweitzer is pushing for new transmission lines in Montana that could carry energy from wind farms in the heartland to high-demand centers on the coasts. A high voltage, direct current line that could carry up to 3000 megawatts of power is currently proposed for the state. Alberta-based TransCanada Corp., the developer, has said the line could be in operation by 2014. Wind is a ready resource that has prompted as many as 50 wind projects at various stages of development in the state. Pickens contends such wind energy could meet 22 percent of the nation''s energy needs, the amount currently met by natural gas. Then, in his plan, natural gas supplies would be freed up to fuel transportation. Wind-energy development is expected to receive a jolt from the federal stimulus package, which contains about $11 billion in funding for new transmission lines and $60 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy companies. Last year, 126 megawatts worth of wind power were captured in Montana, bringing the total to 271 megawatts.