Smart guys? I'm crazy for them. Driving through the Texas Panhandle from Oklahoma City home to Santa Fe this spring, I started to lose count, in the land of windmills, of the new wind turbines that have popped up everywhere in the Great Plains. Everytime I've made this drive, which has been a lot the last couple of years, the number keeps growing. In my uncle's oil business office in the Panhandle, I took a photo of the Dust Storm in Spearman, left, hanging on the office wall. I happened to have just finished reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, a National Book Award Winner, about the Great American Dust Bowl. It was a farming method that caused the crisis then, and the area's topsoil blew as far away as WDC and NYC, blackening the cities before attention was given to the policies of land management. That was wind power and farming, then. Now it is the price of gas and oil that is making the crisis we're all feeling in our pocketbooks.
In the Texas panhandle, just north of Sweetwater, is the town of Pampa, not too far from my uncle's town, where smart guy T. Boone Pickens' Mesa Power is currently building the largest wind farm in the world on 400,0o0 acres. When completed, it will double the wind energy output of the U.S. Mesa Power is buying leases up in America's heartland for wind farming.
I thought my dad was a smart guy for not going into the family (oil) business. Today with the price of oil nearing $150/bbl, he'll tell you he's smart for buying Oklahoma City-headquartered Chesapeake Energy stock when it was low, low, low. It was my stock in Phillips 66 that gave me a tiny cushion I invested wisely long, long ago. Ah. Oil and smart guys.
The rising cost of oil and gas might might awaken us from our slumber. Wind farming in the Panhandle and the Great Plains is the next big thing and Pickens is embarking on a plan to save our nation via windfarming. In rolling out his plan, Pickens has been extremely media-savvy, embracing new media and social networking techniques to create buzz. Check out his Pickens Plan site. Pickens plans to spend $58 million on a multi-media campaign to raise awareness of the country's energy troubles and his plan for fixing them.
The Pickens Plan, outlined in the L.A. Times, could cut US oil imports by as much as 38% if we shift to natural gas as a transportation fuel (and thereby save our country by not sending dollars to other countries to purchase oil) and increase our reliance on wind power. Natural gas is our country's second largest energy resource -- 98% of the natural gas used in the US is from North America, but 70% of our oil is purchased from foreign companies and peak oil was reached in 2005. Domestic natural gas reserves are twice that of petroleum. Using natural gas for transportation (currently only 1% of natural gas is used for transportation) would be less expensive than gas or diesel. Pickens is one smart guy.
One of the smartest gutsiest guys around? JPMorgan Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, at left. He was interviewed by Charlie Rose last week at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Part One is a must-watch, even though it is long. Part Two is short. Watch it for a good lesson in business leadership. If I send you one important link you must see, this is it. A man without hubris.
Another smart guy now gone: Dr. Michael DeBakey, who died this weekend at age 99 in Houston (where I am this week, gimping around in my boot cast), credited much of his surgical success to his mother, Raheeja, for teaching him to sew, crochet and knit. I'm asking my mom if he operated on my granddad quite a number of years ago. I think he did.
Marrying a smart guy was an important thing to me. I did and I'm glad.