What are we to make of the Pickens Plan? This week, long-time oil investor and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens (photo) put forth a proposal to greatly reduce American dependence on foreign oil. At the heart of the plan is a call for large-scale expansion of wind energy to allow the country’s natural gas now being used for electricity generation to serve instead as a cleaner fuel for cars, trucks and buses.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Pickens says: “I believe this plan will be the perfect bridge to the future, affording us the time to develop new technologies and a new perspective on our energy use.” While the call for a massive commitment to wind energy is generating excitement among some environmentalists, the idea of devoting enormous resources to natural-gas-powered vehicles seems a lot more dubious.
But is he really advocating an idea–or simply advancing his own interests? Pickens controls Mesa Energy, which plans to spend up to $10 billion building a gargantuan wind farm in rural Texas whose value would be greatly enhanced amid the national effort that 80-year-old Pickens is proposing. His BP Capital hedge fund is heavily invested in natural gas as well as oil.
It’s amazing how many of the hundreds of news articles written about the proposal in the past two days have failed to mention Pickens’ vested interests, while the Associated Press quoted him as making the following preposterous statement about his plan: “I don’t have any profit motive in this. I’m doing it for America.” Back in April he was more candid when speaking to the Guardian about his wind farm investment: “Don’t get the idea that I’ve turned green. My business is making money, and I think this is going to make a lot of money.”
We should also be wary of Pickens because of his other bold initiative: buying up water rights. Just last month, those exploits were the focus of a story in Business Week whose cover (left) depicted him as the water equivalent of the ruthless oil tycoon of the movie There Will Be Blood. It will be a sad state of affairs if we let wheeler-dealers such as Pickens set the agenda for the future of our resources. Sustainability cannot be based on cornering the market.