AEP embraces Pickens' plan for more wind energy, natural gas

COLUMBUS, OHIO - America's security depends on its ability to develop wind energy, Texas businessman T. Boone Pickens said in Columbus.

He was promoting his "Pickens Plan" and welcoming a new corporate sponsor of the proposal: Columbus-based American Electric Power.

Pickens spoke at a town-hall-style meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. He was joined by Michael Morris, AEP's chairman, president and CEO.

"The security of America is at stake because of dependency on foreign oil from people who hate us," Pickens said.

His plan would generate up to 22 percent of the nation's electricity from wind power and develop an extra-high-voltage transmission system to move the power across the country.

He also proposes a dramatic increase in the use of natural gas to fuel cars, trucks and buses.

"I think America has an opportunity to make a difference right now," Morris said, about the possible benefits of the plan.

The two men were welcomed by Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, who said he is looking at using federal stimulus money to buy garbage trucks powered by natural gas.

Pickens introduced his plan in July amid $4-per-gallon gasoline. His plan has gained visibility, coming as it does from an oilman who is embracing renewable energy. Now, he is traveling the country to promote his plan, asking for support from the public, businesses and the government.

But some are skeptical, including Kenneth B. Medlock III, an economist and energy fellow at Rice University in Houston. He said some of the plan's goals are admirable, but he questions whether they are workable.

"My biggest concern is the scale," he said.

Pickens sees natural gas as a "bridge fuel" that could be used for several decades until electric batteries have been improved enough to become the main power source for vehicles.

About 800 people attended the meeting, including Jim Coleman, 68, who lives in Naples, Fla., and was visiting relatives in Columbus.

"I feel it is extremely important that the U.S. have low-cost energy," he said.

Wesley Ebenhack, 23, of Circleville, hopes to have a job that deals with alternative energy. He is a student at Ohio State University.

"There are so many resources we could take advantage of," he said.

AEP has long advocated an extra-high-voltage transmission system like the one in Pickens' plan. Morris said this would help connect new energy resources from across the country, including wind power and the products of so-called "clean coal."

The utility also is getting involved in renewable-energy sources. Early last month, AEP announced a deal that will bring 100 megawatts of wind energy to Ohio. The power will come from a wind farm in Indiana.

Ohio has almost no wind turbines within its borders, though companies such as AEP are working to develop them. The largest wind farm in the state is in Bowling Green, with four turbines.

At the meeting yesterday, the topic of OSU came up more than once. Pickens is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and a major donor to the school. He noted several times that his school has the same acronym as Ohio State.

"What?" he asked. "There's another OSU?"


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