Monday, November 17, 2008

The Oil Giant Turns Green??

by Mort Malkin

T. Boone Pickens has been on television as much as any candidate for public office. And he, at age 80! First, there were paid advertisements on the networks. Then, he went on the late night political humor shows, ostensibly to hawk his book “The First Billion Is The Hardest.” Poor guy, with the current financial crisis, he must need the money.

Lately, he’s not talking about his book, He’s doing a typical bait & switch job. First, he blesses wind power — who can be against a clean, renewable energy source? He has his basic facts straight. There’s enough wind fom Texas to Montana and the Dakotas to power the entire nation. But, T. Boone Pickens puts wind decades away. In the interim he wants to use natural gas, a genuine fossil fuel. Interviewed on “Face The Nation,” he reveled in the glories of natural gas: it is (relatively) clean burning; it can replace diesel fuel for 18-wheelers; it is plentiful in the US. Cars can be run on batteries and even photovoltaics, but big rigs, the 18-wheelers, need diesel fuel or, in Pickens’ scheme, they can be converted to run on natural gas.

In the interests of full disclosure -- offered by the Gadfly Revelry & Research gang on behalf of T. Boone Pickens -- he is the CEO of BP Capital, a hedge fund. He is also based in Texas with an office in Dallas and a ranch in the panhandle. Gas extraction companies are already mining natural gas around Fort Worth. Then, he has an interest in water from the Ogallala aquifer that runs under his ranch. Neither does he tell about how, like oil, the easily-obtainable large pools of gas were taken years ago. The “plentiful” natural gas he is so enthusiastic about lies a mile deep in the earth in many tiny crevices and pockets, which were thought not worth the trouble to drill for it. Enter Halliburton, the gas & oil technology experts. In the 90s, when Dick Cheney was CEO, Halliburton developed the proprietary technology of hydraulic fracturing of the bedrock and the chemistry to bring up the dispersed natural gas in quantity. The mini-pockets of gas are widespread around the nation: the Barnett shale in Texas, deposits in the Rocky Mountains, and the Marcellus shale of northeast Pennsylvania and nearby New York, for starters.

Boone, no country bumpkin, also knows, but isn’t telling, that each gas well takes at least a million gallons of water in the drilling process. Also, various chemicals must be added to lubricate the whole works, to inhibit corrosion, and to suppress the growth of bacteria and algae. In Texas, Colorado, and western Pennsylvania, pollution of nearby drinking water wells by methane, benzenes, methyl napthalenes, Halad 344 and a hundred other toxic creations, has been documented. Were you expecting Halliburton to hold to high environmental standards? They didn’t even worry about patriotism when they moved their headquarters to Dubai from Houston.

You might not expect the interviewers from the media to know the details about drilling for diffuse natural gas deposits. But, how much knowledge and imagination does it take to ask T. Boone Pickens if he ever heard of using freight trains (electrified, of course) to move goods around the country instead of driving pollution spewing 18-wheelers? The electricity to run the trains can be obtained from sun, wind, and tides. T. Boone Pickens is a good geologist. Does he know something about gas deposits under the brush on his Texas ranch?