The ever-charismatic T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oilman and an outspoken voice for changing America’s energy use, recently graced Gaston’s stage. While Pickens should be applauded for daring to say that we can’t drill our way out of our current problem and that we must fundamentally change how we produce and consume energy, there are some serious causes for concern in his motivations and recommendations. The image of an oil man turned environmentalist is an appealing one, and thus propounded by media sources. But it is misleading.

Pickens says that the way out of this mess we have gotten ourselves into is through renewable energy. One of Pickens’ many suggestions is to put up thousands of windmills in the Midwest, which he refers to as “the Saudi Arabia of wind energy.” In the meantime, he suggests that we take other recourses to build a bridge between the energy nightmare of today and the promise of the cleaner, greener energy of tomorrow. Pickens’ efforts are impressive, and many of his suggestions are original and his points well-received. But not everything he says or represents is concurrent with moving away from polluting the environment that our generation will have to live in long after Pickens begins decomposing into future fossil fuel.

ost concerning is the main cause of Pickens’ distress over the current situation. It isn’t the ecological devastation our world is causing through pollution that worries Pickens as much as it is our dependence on foreign oil. In his speech he said that “global warming is serious, but not as serious as the $700 billion” we spend on importing oil every year. Furthermore, many of the bridge programs that he suggests we rely on until we develop more alternative energy solutions seem lacking in their concern for their environmental consequences. He is an advocate for coal energy, but clean coal technology does not currently exist. Furthermore, coal power plants produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases and are environmentally destructive. He is also a strong advocate for natural gas, but while natural gas is cleaner than regular gasoline, it is still a serious cause of pollution worldwide and depends on fossil fuel. As Shea Kinser (COL ’09), a board member of EcoAction, points out, “Pickens’ plan is supposed to act as a `bridge’ to `buy us time to develop … new technologies,’ and I’m just not sure we have 20 to 30 years to wait; perhaps we should be pouring money into research and development at a greater rate now.”

Those looking for a man with innovative ideas on energy independence need look no further than T. Boone Pickens. Those looking for an environmentalist, however, should keep searching.

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