There is The Pickens Plan.
And, there is The Pickens Problem.
Too often, the two are not talked about in combination as is merited.
While The Pickens Plan has its problems, The Pickens Problem sadly raises questions about how seriously one should take T Boone Pickens’ words about The Pickens Plan. I would welcome the ability to engage openly and with trust with The Pickens Plan, but as long as The Pickens Problem remains unresolved and unaddressed, any engagement will have to be reserved, guarded, and cautious.
T. Boone Pickens speaks to the need to end America’s oil addiction, to move off oil. T Boone Pickens’ political contributions speak to continuing the status quo, to drilling the hole deeper when it comes to oil addiction.
The Pickens Problem is undermining the chances that The Pickens Plan will ever see fruition.
The Pickens Plan
The Pickens Plan is gaining real attention. When a multi-billionaire has an idea (with good and bad elements) and puts $50+ million into making noise about it, people pay attention. (What’s the difference between Energize America and the Pickens Plan? Expertise applied for the common good, a billionaire, and about $60 million in advertising/public relations …)
T Boone has met with John McCain.
T Boone has met with Barack Obama.
And, next Wednesday, in The Big Tent, outside the Democratic National Committee, T Boone will be on the stage with Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and John Podesta, the President and Chief Executive Office of American Progress.
Now, to be clear, T Boone is helping to bring attention to quite real options to our energy problems and arguing for paths for getting off oil, rather than the Republican mania to advocate for illusionary options that won’t even provide enough oil to feed our oil addiction. In some ways, his voice (and the money amplifying) is useful. As T Boone, himself, put it:
Can’t we just produce more oil?
World oil production peaked in 2005. Despite growing demand and an unprecedented increase in prices, oil production has fallen over the last three years. Oil is getting more expensive to produce, harder to find and there just isn’t enough of it to keep up with demand.
The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone.
I’ve been an oilman all my life. But this is one emergency that we can’t drill our way out of.
In the face of the Republican Party’s Drillusion and outright lies about energy issues, such strong and direct language coming from an oilman is a welcome relief. And, those words come as part of a proposal to radically change America’s energy structure away from oil.
As explained here and elsewhere, "The Pickens Plan has a mixture of extremely good and important elements, and concepts that simply don’t comport with energy reality." Central to the plan (and extremely good) is a major investment in wind energy and improvements to the national grid to make this electricity useful across the nation. This is excellent. More problemmatic is the call for natural gas to be used in transport and (serious) questions about his water plans but, again, the call for major portions of the US electricity grid to come from wind power is "brilliant".
Under the current environment, a critical element to continue serious movement toward wind power is the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for renewable electricity generation. The problem: the PTC has been stalled due to Republican Party obstructionism (including John McCain’s absenteeism) against moves toward sensible energy policies for the future. Time after time, the PTC has come up for votes in the House (passed) and Senate (failed to pass cloture votes), and consistently (time after time) the majority of the Republicans have voted against this critical element of fostering generation of electricity from the wind (and sun) maintaining a preference for tax breaks for oil, natural gas, and coal companies.
The Pickens Problem
And, this is where we toward to "Pickens’ Problem". For the nation, T Boone Pickens’ has a major responsibility for the implications of a second Bush-Cheney administration through his massive contributions to the Swift Boat-ing of John Kerry. These, and other contributions to the Republican Party, make most moderates and liberals leery of T Boone Pickens. As one of John Kerry’s crew members put it recently
"I guess now we know the ‘T’ in T. Boone doesn’t stand for ‘truth,’ " said Del Sandusky, one of the crewmen. "I really hoped we could’ve taken him at his word. … We won’t rest until he admits the truth that he bankrolled a big lie."
Let us (with difficulty, perhaps) put aside this historical record, at least for a moment.
Take a look at the year through 30 June 2008 of T Boone Pickens’ political contributions. Over the past year, records how $96,450 in T Boone contributions.
Of that, $0 for Democratic Party and $96,450 for Republican Party organizations and candidates.
Okay, so this billionaire is a Republican. So, what else is new? So, what?
The "what" is contrasting this political donation record, the words and deeds of the candidates that T Boone contributes too, against his claims to desire solving America’s energy problems, to end our sending of trillions of dollars overseas in the "most massive transfer of wealth in human history" for imported oil.
$38,500 to the RNC. $15,000 to the NRCC. $14,250 to the NRSC. A simple question to ask: Where have these organizations stood in the fight to end our oil addiction and to move toward a renewable energy future? Have they fought to continue the status quo or to create a new reality?
$4600 (the maximum allowed) to Senator James Inhofe (R-EXXON) who, quite simply, is perhaps the worst member of the Senate when it comes to ending our oil addiction and moving toward a sensible energy future.
$2300 to Pete Domenici. $1000 to John Shadegg. $4600 to Roger Wicker. $2300 to Ralph Hall. $2300 to Brian Billbray. And, so on … These are not the sort of contributions expected of those engaged in discussions at The Big Tent next week during the Democratic National Convention. These are not contributions to the visionaries of and fighters for a new energy future.
T. Boone Pickens speaks to the need to end America’s oil addiction, to move off oil. T Boone Pickens’ political contributions speak to continuing the status quo, to drilling the hole deeper when it comes to America’s oil addiction.
Thus, until there is a resolution of The Pickens Problem, all are advised to tread very carefully when it comes to T Boone Pickens and The Pickens Plan.