There's a Capitalist Behind the Pickens Plan!

August 7th, 2008

T. Boone Pickens is not motivated purely by selfless regard for our nation’s energy future. He’s also motivated by the opportunity to make some more money.

That’s what a Dallas Morning News story implies. “Boone Pickens’ Motives in Energy Plan Questioned” suggests that the Pickens Plan can’t be trusted because, if adopted, the plan will just mean Boone’s own pockets will just get a little fuller.

Texas oil billionaire Pickens has gotten national attention recently because of the Pickens Plan, an effort to expand natural gas and wind power production in order to reduce dependence on imported petroleum. He’s investing his own millions in promoting his plan, and no doubt expects to earn millions more if the wind farms he proposes get the green light from the government.

Texas environmentalists also know that at the same time Mr. Pickens is promoting wind energy, he’s also trying to corner the market on aquifer water from the Panhandle, to be sold off to a burgeoning megalopolis like Dallas/Fort Worth.

What’s an honorable, ethical environmentalist to do? Support the Pickens plan, because it will lead to more clean energy produced (and therefore less non-renewable, polluting energy generation like from coal)? Or oppose it because the money Pickens makes selling wind power might be used to help him drain the aquifer?

Politics (it has been noted elsewhere) makes strange bedfellows. In order to win votes in Congress or the Texas Legislature, environmentalists have to be willing to work with uncommon allies, and folks we don’t necessarily view as ideologically pure. And that has to be OK if we want to save the planet. Our issues are so urgent and important, right here, right now, that we can’t afford to dismiss even one potential ally (especially a potential ally with the money to make a real difference). Too much is at stake.

Wealthy, influential decision-makers are precisely the kinds of folks who should become persuaded that the time has come to get our energy from clean, renewable sources. Their support will help make clean energy get her faster. Climate change science tells us we don’t have much time to change course; we have to act now.

After decades of addiction, moving beyond oil won’t be easy, but it can be done. It will take hard work and a national commitment. It will take a willingness to embrace new solutions like significantly increasing fuel efficiency and renewable energy instead of the tired answers of the last century. If an oil man can get there, can Texas and the whole country be far behind?

Mr. Pickens should be able to count on Texas environmentalists to stand with him in support of generating more wind energy. And he should also count on us to oppose him when he proposes something that harms Texas and Texans.