Pickens Pragmatism Means Going Wherever The Wind Blows (Part 1)

Oil and water don't mix. That is, unless you're T. Boone Pickens and you're rounding out your investment portfolio.

Kevin Ferguson, Contributor

February 3, 2009

3 Min Read

Oil and water don't mix. That is, unless you're T. Boone Pickens and you're rounding out your investment portfolio.Pickens, whose eponymous and autobiographical Web site, refers to the oilman-cum-wind-farm-magnate as "a surprising environmentalist," gathered media together yesterday with Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and John Podesta, Center for American Progress Action Fund president, to drum up interest in a national clean energy forum to be held later this month in Washington, D.C.

The National Clean Energy Project: Building the New Economy forum will focus on "developing a plan and key guiding principles to lead the transformation of U.S. energy policy and to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil." Attendees are expected to include Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Pickens.

In addition to modernizing and expanding the electricity grid, the forum will be "examining short- and long-term solutions to replace foreign oil with domestic resources to fuel vehicles and trucks, including natural gas." Part of that exercise will be to discuss the Pickens Plan, whose fuel choices include, in order, wind power, natural gas and to a far lesser extent, domestic oil. Pickens has holdings in all three, which has sparked debate in some corners as to the nature of his motives. He also has a huge stake in water resources, which some environmentalists argue is not in the public's best interest.

Despite the appearance of "environmentalist" on his Web site, though, he has not wrapped himself tightly in green cloth. That's evident enough from his television ads last year that advocated domestic oil exploration ("A big debate in Washington now is whether to drill. I say, 'Drill drill, drill.' But the debate misses the point. Either way, we'll still be dependent on foreign oil.") He also supports nuclear power, as he notes in a Georgetown University presentation.

Rather than green, Pickens wraps himself in red, white, and blue. Addiction to foreign oil "threatens our economy, our environment, and our national security," he writes at the top of the Pickens Plan. It's a shame he didn't have such insight when Mesa Limited Partnership was sucking oil out of the Gulf Coast like a thirsty 10-year-old Okie on a bottle of cold Dr. Pepper.

Pickens put it this way on yesterday's call:

"The country is insecure. [By year's end], if we don't do anything, we're going to be importing 75% of our oil, and I promise you you're going to be paying $200 to $300 a barrel for it [within 10 years]. We got a bit of a breather here, but within 60 days we'll be back to $60 oil, and by the end of the year we'll be up to $75." ... "President Obama saying he doesn't want to be import any oil from the Middle East in 10 years … If we will just focus on that, focus on the renewables, focus on the grid, then we can solve that problem within 10 years."

Pickens is not an environmentalist. He may be a patriot. He is definitely a pragmatist. That may not turn out to be a bad thing for the environment. Unless Pickens finds it competes with the national security or his own business interests.

Tomorrow: Environmentalism vs. pragmatism.

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