T. Boone Pickens Plants Big Flag In Clean Energy Policy Arena

When we first heard, last year, about the $10 billion investment that T. Boone Pickens (see pix above) is making in the Texas Panhandle to build the largest wind generating station in the United States our response was elemental. Right message. Right messenger. Right scale of investment to foster the clean energy, good jobs economy.

Today in New York, Pickens made another thrust to prod America to take charge of its energy future. He launched what he said was “a bold and decisive bipartisan public policy campaign on energy designed to address the single biggest crisis facing America today: our growing and dangerous dependence on foreign oil.”

Never shy, the famed 80-year-old oilman named his strategy the Pickens Plan, and said the $700 billion a year now flowing out of the United States to foreign oil suppliers, many of them hostile to American interests, represents an “emergency” that needs to be addressed now.

Pickens said he will finance what he called “an aggressive multi-media advertising and internet  education campaign designed to focus attention on this crisis” and to advance the Pickens Plan, which includes:

– Calling on private industry to fund the installation of thousands of wind turbines in the America’s windy zones, generating enough power to provide 20 percent or more of our electricity supply.

– Prompting the private sector to build a modern electric power transmission lines to connecting wind power generating sites with power plants, providing energy to the population centers in theMidwest, South and Western regions of the country.

– Redirecting the natural gas supplies that were fueling power plants serving the large population centers and use it to replace imported gasoline and diesel as a fuel for vehicles.

“Our dependence on imported oil is killing our economy. It is the single biggest problem facing America today,” Pickens said. “This has to stop and it has to stop now before we get to a place where no actions can make a difference. Crisis means danger and opportunity. We know the danger but now we have the opportunity to do something that we should have done 30 to 40 years ago. Sometimes it takes a crisis to awaken us from our slumber but once aroused the American people can accomplish miracles.”

Pickens said his plan can be executed in five to 10 years and that help from Washington was essential. He challenged the presidential candidates to embrace his plan. Two of the three measures that the Pickens Plan proposes — scaling up wind energy to supply 20 percent of more of the nation’s electricity, and modernizing the transmission grid — have been proposed and advanced by other prominent organizations, including the Apollo Alliance.

The proposal to replace a portion of the nation’s gasoline supply with natural gas is an intriguing interim step. And his call for presidential candidates and Washington to recognize the urgency of America’s energy crisis and to act with steps that make a difference now — like quickly scaling up existing renewable energy sources instead of opening the outer continental to new drilling that won’t produce a new drop of oil for two decades — is a part of every reasoned clean energy strategy.

For more information:
Elliot Sloane

— Keith Schneider

Green-Collar, Where it Started

In 1999 Alan Durning, the author and director of the Sightline Institute in Seattle, published a prescient and well-received book about natural resources and economics entitled “Green-Collar Jobs.”

“A sustainable economy can generate employment just as well as an unsustainable one,” Durning wrote. “For every declining industry, like those that log old-growth forests, make farm chemicals, and build roads, there is an emerging one to take up the slack, like those that advise organic farmers, build windmills, and design walkable neighborhoods. A sustainable economy could be full of opportunity, and not only in these overtly green sectors.”

He added: “But the incremental change from the status quo to an economy that aims for ecological durability, like any major social transition, will be full of painful transformations. The new jobs often require different―and more sophisticated skills than the old ones, and they’re sometimes in different places.”

The phrase Durning coined, “green-collar,” and the basic economic framework that it describes have been embraced over the last year by presidential candidates of both parties, as much a factor in the 2008 campaign as “property rights” in the 1996 contest, and nearly as prominent as “family values” in 1988.

The Apollo Alliance has played a role in elevating the idea that in making the change from a polluting carbon-based economy to a clean energy economy, workers benefit. A 2004 Apollo Alliance study, New Energy For America, found that a 10-year, $300 billion federal investment in clean energy technology, equipment, and practices would yield 3.3 million quality, family-support, career-track jobs. Apollo’s president Jerome Ringo has tirelessly made the same case for green-collar jobs with local groups, major conventions, keynotes in dozens of states, in national media interviews, racking up 200,000-plus air miles a year.

More recently Van Jones, of Green For All, and Majora Carter, of Sustainable South Bronx have embraced the clean energy economy, and green-collar jobs as central to the “pathway out of poverty” for central city residents. The Apollo Alliance and a coalition of partners just published Green-Collar Jobs in America’s Cities, and a companion report, Greener Pathways, that provide guidance to elected leaders for developing effective green-collar training programs.

How much momentum has the green-collar framework gained? A lot. Here’s a sampling of media pieces in just the last week or so.

— Keith Schneider

Reign of Sand


Late last summer Circle of Blue, a global multi-media journalism project based here in Traverse City, sent a reporting team to Inner Mongolia, China to cover the front lines of the freshwater crisis in Asia. The members included a writer based in South Korea, a photographer from Australia, an artist and grasslands specialist from Beijing, and Eric Daigh, a videographer and multi-media producer from Circle of Blue’s main office in northern Michigan.

Circle of Blue’s strategy is to merge great independent reporting with the new online multi-media production and dissemination tools to elevate freshwater scarcity to a global priority. The project is the inspiration of Carl and Eileen Ganter, multi-media journalists who live in Traverse City and covered the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. They returned with the idea of doing what no mainstream media organization wanted to do: invest in producing great reporting and images to galvanize public attention around an emerging global environmental, cultural, and political crisis.

Circle of Blue is finishing its “Reign of Sand” multi-media report from Inner Mongolia, which includes more video, articles, photographs, and an interactive motion graphic map. This video is a taste of the great work to come from this online journalism project.

Flip: What The Web Will Look Like Now


My friend Brad Johnson, a graphic designer who with his wife, Julie Beeler, manages one of the hottest interactive multi-media studios in the country, Second Story Media in Portland, Oregon, sent me a link the other day to motionographer.com. Motionographer is a portal to much of the hottest and most creative online motion graphic artistry now happening around the United States and the world.

I’m often asked where the Web is going. My response since meeting and writing a New York Times piece last year about Brad and Julie is that it’s going to look a lot more like a video game than any of us ever anticipated. The rich motion graphics accompanied by music will immerse the visitor in a story-telling experience, much like video games do now.

Here’s one very cool site: Stardust, and its montage set to the Stones.

Spend more than a few moments clicking into the links on the left side of the page. Then look through the jobs section to get an idea of who’s growing, and what kind of skills are sought after in this new online graphic world. After a few minutes you’re likely to reach the same conclusion I did. Where’s the beating spirit of American creativity? It’s on the Web. Enjoy.