Art Cullen

The Power of Wind

You wouldn’t think that Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens have a thing in common. Gore was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2000. Four years later, Pickens, the Texas oil tycoon, helped to fund the slimy and slanderous Swift Boat Veterans ads that lied about John Kerry’s heroic service in Vietnam.

Gore and Pickens agree on one point:

The United States must convert most of its electrical power to wind, solar and hydro within 10 years.

You might have seen Pickens’ ads on television. He starts out by noting that we imported 24% of our oil in 1970. Today we import 70% of our oil, and it just keeps growing. “At current oil prices, we will send $700 billion out of the country this year alone—that’s four times the annual cost of the Iraq war,” Pickens says. “Projected over the next 10 years the cost will be $10 trillion—it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.”

All going to Saudi sheiks who fund terrorist groups out to kill us, we would add.

It’s only going to get worse. Pickens explains that world oil production peaked in 2005. “The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone,” he says.

Again, this is not your granola muncher talking. This is a hard-nosed Republican oilman and corporate raider who wants to convert our electric supply to windpower and our fleet of autos to natural gas. Citing a Stanford University study, Pickens says that the belt running from Texas to North Dakota has ample wind speed to power the world’s electrical needs—and we are the buckle in that belt right here in Storm Lake, Iowa, with the highest average annual wind speeds in North America, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Developing the production, storage and transmission capacity of domestic wind power will take some $3 trillion, he figures.

Gore agrees.

On July 17, the Nobel Peace Prize winner challenged the next president to produce every kilowatt of US electricity using renewable resources within the decade.

“This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative,” Gore said.

Today, renewables account for about 8% of electric generation capacity.

President Bush declared that the nation must free itself from its dangerous addiction to oil. But not much has been done. Democratic candidate Barack Obama proposes to invest $150 billion into renewable energy over the next 10 years. John McCain relies more on a program of market-based initiatives to get to an oil-free economy.

“Of course, there are those who will tell us that this can’t be done,” Gore said. “But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC minister observed, ‘The Stone Age didn’t end because of a shortage of stones.’”

Were we not addicted to oil, we would not be fighting in the Middle East. The only reason we have military bases in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait is to protect its oil. Pickens and Gore understand it, as more Americans do every day when fueling up with $4 gasoline. Five years from now, we will speak of that price with nostalgia. Ten years from now, we could be beyond the carbon era. Rather than energy profits going to Saudi Arabia, they could be flowing to the Plains States in a new golden era if we can manage it right.

When you have Gore and Pickens playing the same tune, it just might happen. It depends on who’s listening, and Obama appears to be.

Art Cullen is editor of The Storm Lake (Iowa) Times, where this editorial appeared. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2008

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