In 2008, oilman T. Boone Pickens made major waves by touting the Pickens Plan, a comprehensive strategy to promote domestic energy using a variety of resources to reduce the dependency on foreign oil. Pickens didn’t actually achieve legislative success that year, but he did manage to drive the discussion of energy independence or at least a move toward it.
And what was interesting about Pickens’ effort, complete as it was with a media blitz and a lobbying assault, was that for a short time it united some energy industry people and environmentalists – because Pickens touted natural gas and wind energy as two major pieces of his program.
Three years later, though, Pickens has realized something most people already knew – namely, that wind energy is simply not economic. As such, he’s altering his advocacy into a full-throated offensive on behalf of natural gas, leaving wind aside in large measure. Pickens reasons that until natural gas prices hit $6 per BTU, there will be no demand for wind in today’s market, and he thinks it will be 2016 before a $6 BTU price on natural gas is a reality. So he’s tabling some of the wind projects he’s been pushing for.
And by doing so, Pickens has now made an enemy of his former buddies at the Sierra Club, who have gone from adopting him as their pet capitalist (they said he was out to “save America” in 2008) to demonizing him again. It’s breaking his heart.
“Of course, I wish I had everybody with me. Does it hurt [not to]? Sure. It’s not going to help. But you can’t do wind because natural gas is too cheap,” Pickens said. “There is a huge opportunity to get natural gas into the market, so I would ask the Sierra Club, what can I be for?”
Pickens is pushing legislation to incentivize the conversion of the nation’s truck fleet (and other fleet vehicles) to run on natural gas, which for a gallon of gas equivalent costs about half what gasoline or diesel costs. The conversions will make economic sense within months based on those savings, meaning this isn’t just some government boondoggle – it represents a real opportunity for market-based change.
“You have no way to force wind in unless it makes economic sense,” Pickens said, explaining why he is pushing for natural gas in the interim. “You’re sitting here on an abundance of the cleanest of all hydrocarbons. You’re a fool if you don’t use it. If you turn it down, it means you’re for foreign oil.”
That, however, doesn’t work for the enviros. They’ve picked their pet energy source – and it ain’t natural gas.
Bruce Hamilton, deputy executive director of the Sierra Club, said any excitement “about the fact that there was a major fossil fuel kingpin saying we’re addicted to oil and we need to be massively investing in wind power” has since faded.
Hamilton said Pickens “stands to make a lot of money” from natural gas, a resource that the Sierra Club has said lacks regulation. Companies are not required to disclose what chemicals they use to draw natural gas out of the ground.
In case our readers don’t get the joke yet – Pickens was great when he was pushing an energy source that needed heavy government subsidies and interference in the market to become profitable. Now that economics have dictated something else – namely that a fossil fuel which burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels and oh-by-the-way doesn’t need lefty politicians in office paving the way for its profitability – should move to the forefront, it’s time to crap on T. Boone Pickens-who-we-actually-hated-all-along-dontcha-know.
There’s a term for these guys – they’re watermelons. Green on the outside, red – as in commie red – on the inside. They loved the guy who was pushing natural gas three years ago. He was out to save America. But now that he’s pushing natural gas and not necessarily windmills, he’s garbage.
And then there’s this…
But Pickens has now canceled the bulk of a $1.5 billion wind turbine order that he placed with General Electric last year and says wind power will not be profitable until the cost of natural gas rises from $4 to $6 per million British thermal units. That, he estimates, will happen by 2016.
Pickens comes off like he’s trying to give the Sierra Club some lessons in basic economics. He might as well try to teach Sanskrit to a buffalo.
No good deed goes unpunished, one imagines.
Pickens’ advocacy for wind energy back in 2008 carried with it no small amount of advocacy for government subsidies for it in an effort to get the industry off the ground. Many conservatives saw it as pure rent-seeking and were turned off by the Pickens Plan as a result. When it turned out that one of the major investors in his wind energy company was one Nancy Pelosi, it certainly didn’t help his cause. And he took a lot of criticism for his trouble (justifiably so).
Now that he’s pushing legislation to put tax incentives – which are not subsidies, as tax incentives merely allow someone who figures out how to make a profit to keep their money rather than actually paying people – behind natural gas and no longer emphasizing government payments, well…we applaud the improvement.
If nothing else, he’s got the right enemies again.