On July 28th the ever-expanding, ever-hip, almost ubiquitous
Virgin revealed the WhiteKnightTwo—a carrier ship that will ferry
the still veiled SpaceShipTwo on its sub-orbital, space tourism
flights. SpaceShipTwo will be the first ship of the new
Virgin Galactic—Virgins’ latest step on it’s quest for universal
Ferried by WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo will be the first ever
space tourism craft. It will be capable of carrying six
passengers and two pilots into a sub-orbit around the earth to see
space, the Earth, and experience weightlessness.
WhiteKnightTwo Will be able to support up to four daily space
flights and operate during both day and night.
The fist flight of WhiteKnightTwo with SpaceShipTwo and
passengers is expected to take place in Early 2010 and the BBC
reports there are already 250 people have paid $200,000 to be
on the first flights. Before you grab your wallet, remember
that each flight will remain at it’s top altitude of about 60 miles
above the Earth’s surface for only about 6
For 80-year-old Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens the
answer is blowin’ in the wind.
When you imagine of the future of U.S. energy, chances are the
you don’t think of 80-year-old Texas Oil tycoons. At least
you didn’t until T. Boone Pickens began campaigning for the
The Pickens Plan just a few weeks ago.
With oil prices heading towards $5 a gallon in the midst of a
recession, an administration change on the horizon and the
clean-tech debate drawing a great deal of attention and even more
capital, the U.S. sorely needs a high profile spokesperson for
energy policy change. So is Pickens our guy? And is the
timing finally right for some serious energy policy change?
The Pickens Plan calls for a reduction in U.S. use of
foreign oil by 38% in 10 years by greatly expanding wind
power in the center of the country to be used towards electricity
production, thus freeing up natural gas reserves to be used for
transportation. 22% of U.S.
electrical generation comes from natural gas. The plan argues
that if the current 1% (48 billion kWh)
of power converted from wind can be expanded to 20% (960 billion
kWh) then the more than 6.2 trillion cubic feet of natural
gas used annually to produce electricity could be used for transportation starting
with industry vehicles like trucks and buses. Furthermore,
unlike oil, natural domestic gas production can increase and
actually did see a 9% rise
from 2007 to 2008. U.S. natural gas reserves are twice
But why has Pickens chosen to promote his plan at this exact
moment? U.S. dependence on foreign oil has been an issue for
at least 20 years and it’s not as if the other selling points of
his plan—lower CO2 emissions of natural
gas, the need to expand renewable energy infrastructure, and the
potential of wind power in the U.S.—are new to the political
landscape. Environmentalists and many Democrats have been
shouting these points for years. The only thing new to these
ideas is that
Pickens is promoting them. Atop in all, Pickens is a
particularly unlikely renewable energy spokesperson. Besides
being a billionaire oil tycoon, he has been an outspoken supporter
of the Republican party and contributed $5.5 million to help defeat John Kerry elect
George W. Bush in 2004.