Sporting his characteristic homespun charm that, at times, bordered on the incendiary, media mogul Ted Turner took to the stage during the opening general session at the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2011 conference on Monday. After all, Turner isn't known as the ‘Mouth of the South’ for nothing.
During a rambling, 30-plus-minute question-and-answer session with AWEA CEO Denise Bode, Turner weighed in on everything from the attributes of wind energy (‘Wind is good’), to his philanthropic efforts (‘When I was let go at Time-Warner 12 years ago, I needed something to do’) to how the wind industry can compete with fossil fuels (‘Take the incentives that oil and gas gets and give them to renewables’).
Turner also challenged the assertion that the U.S.' natural-gas resources are plentiful.
‘People say we have enough natural gas to last one hundred years,’ he said. ‘That's too short a timeline. We should be thinking for the next one thousand years.’
Turner is no stranger to renewable energy. His company is a part owner in a 30 MW solar facility in New Mexico that went online in January. He also said that he's seeking investment in a wind project that makes economic sense. Turner remarked that, of late, he's been frustrated by many of the same issues likely faced by attendees: a lack of transmission.
‘I have 140,000 acres in South Dakota that have great wind and are located 30 miles away from the state capital. The only thing is, there's no transmission,’ he said. ‘If there was, it could unlock the potential for about 250 wind projects in the area.’
When Bode questioned Turner about how wind energy could compete with oil and gas, the 72-year-old Turner was in fine form.
For starters, he said the wind industry would benefit from amassing a war chest that could be poured into advertising and media-relations campaigns to combat the slick advertising used by oil and coal interests.
‘[The American consumers are] bombarded,’ he said. ‘Every other commercial you see on television, they talk about clean coal. Clean coal? There's no such thing. It makes me sick.
‘This industry needs to raise money,’ Turner asserted, citing the fact that several major corporations involved in wind energy could and should band together to help raise that money.
When Bode told Turner that Vic Abate, GE's vice president of renewable energy, was sitting in the front row, Turner let loose, to the delight of attendees.
‘C'mon Vic, we need to raise some money,’ he said. ‘Let's go out and kick their asses. They need a good ass-kicking.’
Turner then quipped, ‘I've been fighting GE my whole life, and now I'm pulling for them.’
Mostly, however, he urged the audience to maintain momentum, despite recent policy setbacks.
‘Lessening our reliance on fossil fuels is one of the greatest challenges ever faced by humans,’ he said, noting that the hard work of changing federal policy is just starting. ‘If President Obama, whom I like very much, put the energy bill before introducing healthcare [legislation], we'd have our policy by now.’
Turner told attendees to keep hammering home the many positive attributes of wind energy to their elected officials.
‘We're right; they're wrong. Let's win this time.’
Photograph courtesy of tedturner.com