Pickens’ farce

T. Boone Pickens.

T. Boone Pickens.

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

What kind of action does Ruth hate? Inaction! So she’s peeved over the alleged inaction by the California Energy Commission to allow power plants to be built in our state without evaluating their impacts on climate change. The CEC is responsible for licensing power plants and ensuring compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. Earthjustice, on behalf of the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, demanded in late-August that the CEC not allow the Carlsbad Energy Center project—a proposed power plant in San Diego County—to proceed, because plans fail to examine less-polluting alternatives or mitigate adverse eco-impacts as required by law. Power plants emit greenhouse-gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, and opponents worry the Carlsbad plant may use imported liquefied natural gas, which has a large carbon footprint.

Auntie Ruth wanted to give T. Boone Pickens— the legendary billionaire oilman who wants to put a whole bunch of windmills in Texas—the benefit of the doubt. Pickens has been all over television talking about his plans to generate wind energy to replace power plants that run on natural gas so we can run cars on natural gas instead. This aspect bothered Ruth; why not just promote electric vehicles? Natural gas is, after all, a fossil fuel. Incidentally, Pickens owns Clean Energy, a natural-gas fueling-station company, which has contributed $3.2 million to Proposition 10, the so-called “Big Wind” measure on California’s November ballot. Then the Los Angeles Times and Washington Monthly reported more holes in Pickens’ plan to “save America,” suggesting he’s using the wind plan as cover for a profitable water plan. The windmills will be built on a strip of land where, according to the L.A. Times, Pickens eventually plans to pipe water from the Ogallala aquifer to Dallas. Pipeline right-of-way is usually hard to acquire, but Pickens convinced the Texas Legislature to hand him over the land through eminent domain.

The U.S. Green Building Council is bestowing Sacramento-based Advanced Data Centers with LEED platinum certification for the center, located at McClellan Air Force Base. Data centers are notorious high-energy users, but ADC designed its center to reduce its negative eco-impact. Pumps move outside night air into the center to cool servers, while rainwater goes to toilets and landscaping. Shade trees and reflective surfaces help reduce heat entering the building; the facility uses 25 percent less energy than the typical data center.