Ayear ago the Oracle of Oil, T. Boone Pickens, reinvented himself as the Wizard of Wind, launching a $58-million ad campaign to boost alternative energy and vowing to spend $10 billion to build the world's largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle. It was a startling move from a staunch conservative who had made a fortune in the Texas oil fields, raising hopes that both ends of the political spectrum were coming around to the same point of view about weaning the country from its reliance on oil.
And then, last week, the Pickens plan foundered. Pickens announced that he was scrapping the wind farm. It's too late to take back the $2 billion worth of wind turbines he has already ordered, so instead he has decided to place them in smaller projects around the country.
Pickens isn't the only renewable-energy entrepreneur facing troubles. Wind projects have been increasing sharply in recent years, rising last year by 8,545 megawatts of installed capacity nationally, according to the American Wind Energy Assn. But the trade group expects to see the first decline in new capacity since 2004 this year, projecting that only about 5,000 megawatts will be developed. That's a statistic that should depress both liberals who look to clean power as a solution to climate change and conservatives who want to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.