Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Harnessing the Wind

USA Today has an interesting story about oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens and how he wants to drive the U.S. political and economic agenda — to wind power.

From USA Today:

"'We're paying $700 billion a year for foreign oil. It's breaking us as a nation, and I want to elevate that question to the presidential debate, to make it the No. 1 issue of the campaign this year,' Pickens says. ...

'Nixon said in 1970 that we were importing 20% of our oil and that by 1980 it would be 0%. That didn't happen,' Pickens says. 'It went to 42% in 1991 with the Gulf War. It's just under 70% now. Where do you think we're going to be in 10 years when our economy is busted and we're importing 80% of our oil?'"

The place he kicked off his media blitz is Sweetwater, Texas, home of the annual Rattlesnake Roundup and 1,500 wind turbines by the end of the year.

It's also, though the story fails to mention this, where my parents live. (I don't really understand how there could've been such an oversight.)

The story does note that Sweetwater's Nolan County — were it its own country — would rank sixth on the list of wind-energy-producing nations (though state by state, North Dakota produces more). And, frankly, it's been pretty amazing to watch in the last few years.

I don't get back often (once a year, at most, and then only for a few days) but the horizon, once red plateaus and big sky, is now lined with huge white turbines. Locals feel two ways about this, as you can imagine.

When you see them in the distance, they don't look overly imposing, but you definitely can't overlook them. When you're right next to one of the SPOKES, however — and it's being hauled down the highway by an oversized semi — it can be a little humbling.

(Of course, there are also oil derricks in this part of the world, pumping away on the side of the highway. It makes for an interesting contrast, the black oil derricks versus the white wind turbines.)

But for a town that several years ago was on the verge of collapse, wind energy has made a world of difference.

But I'll leave it to Sweetwater mayor Greg Wortham:

"People hear about the 8-foot-tall wind turbines at Logan airport in Boston or the five turbines at Atlantic City and think 'interesting,' " Wortham says. "But they don't see how we can get to the 300,000-megawatt-production level" established by the Bush administration as a national goal for 2030. "Once you come to Sweetwater, you see that it can be done, and be done pretty easily, not only here, but … anywhere there are prime wind conditions. None of this existed seven years ago. Now, we produce enough electricity in this one county to power a large city, and we do it cheaply and cleanly."

1 comment:

Bianca said...

I love wind turbines! They're totally magical looking. When I was in high school, I went on a road trip to San Francisco, and we passed some mystical land of wind turbines on these rolling green hills. It was totally faeryland...like Dungeons and Dragons and shit.