‘Pickens Plan’ promotes renewable energy, economic security

T. Boone Pickens discusses his energy plan on Aug. 27 at the Big Tent, a shadow convention facility for bloggers. (Photo/Bob Spencer)

T. Boone Pickens discusses his energy plan on Aug. 27 at the Big Tent, a shadow convention facility for bloggers. (Photo/Bob Spencer)

“The fact that I am on stage with T. Boone Pickens just goes to show how absolutely dysfunctional our government has been,” Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club said Wednesday in Denver.

What he’s talking about is the idea that the Bush presidency’s fealty to Big Oil is now making for strange bedfellows.

Translation: Bush and Cheney’s loyalty to their friends in Bush’s former industry has saddled America with a war in Iraq, a massive transfer of wealth to foreign crude-producing nations, and a multi-trillion dollar debt.

It has given us a government that covers up global warming information and that has provided the Chevrons and Exxon-Mobils with record profits.

And so there is T. Boone Pickens. On stage with the leader of the country’s largest environmental nonprofit, talking about Pickens’ plan to build the largest wind farm in the world. Pickens: an independent oilman from Texas (not part of Big Oil) who four years ago helped finance the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose fact-challenged attack ads many credit with derailing John Kerry’s chance at the White House.

The dapper, saggy-faced capitalist doesn’t want to build a mega-windfarm to save the earth. He is no tree hugger. “That’s page two, for me,” he said candidly. “My main reason for wanting to do this is the transfer of wealth.”

Like environmentalists, he says he’s worried about the future of our country.

Pickens said from the stage that if nothing changes and we “stay the course” for another 10 years on our current energy policy, that we will transfer $700 trillion to foreign nations. On his commercials he already describes our current energy dependence as the greatest transfer of wealth in history.

“In 10 years, we won’t have to worry about healthcare or education,” he said in his thick rural Oklahoma accent familiar from his TV commercials. “Because there won’t be any money for it.”

No, Pickens is not green and neither is he converted to liberal ideals. He’s a nonpartisan doling out criticism to Bill Clinton and Al Gore as well as Ronald Reagan when he said, “We haven’t had a real energy policy in this country in 30 years. My dad used to tell me, ‘A fool with a plan will beat a genius without one.’”

His master plan? The elevator pitch is this:

The plan calls for building new wind generation facilities that will produce 20 percent of our nation’s electricity and allow us to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. The combination of these domestic energies can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports. And we can do it all in 10 years.

It’s not as aggressive as Al Gore’s plan to eliminate all carbon emissions (and thus all dependence on foreign oil) in 10 years. But what Sierra Club’s Carl Pope, who recently entered his nonprofit into a profit-sharing licensing agreement with Clorox, said today that he likes about Pickens’ plan is the money it frees up for even more meaningful action.

“The last time a president came to office facing problems as big as ours was [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt,” he told the crowd of journalists and bloggers. “The major differences between now and then, though, is that now the federal government is bankrupt. The next president will have no money to borrow to retrofit our homes for energy-efficiency, we have no money to borrow to invest in alternative energy. If we can retain a portion of that $700 million we export every year? There’s our money.”

Pickens said he had private meetings with both Barack Obama and John McCain and that he enjoyed his talks with both, and that both candidates were receptive to his ideas.

The hump — as with Hillary Clinton’s failed attempt in the early ’90s to reform the healthcare system — will likely be the same: that entrenched interests will resist a redistribution of wealth. Those include most notably Big Oil and the well-lobbied private state utilities such as DTE Energy in Michigan.

Obama delegate Andy Dillon, the speaker of the house in our state, told The Detroit News that he was spending time in Denver dining with officials from DTE.

Dillon’s plans Sunday included the labor lunch, a meeting with Northwest Airlines executives, and dinner with officials from Dow and DTE.

What would those DTE officials footing dinner dates with Dillon think about Pickens’ plan? About being asked to perhaps buy energy from the proposed wind farm? Would they play ball if it meant the slightest dent to their bottom line? Would they resist government regulation that might accompany a national energy plan such as Pickens’ or Gore’s’?

Pickens told the crowd today in Denver that when he became a rich man, he could get a meeting with a congressman in 90 minutes. Now, he says, that he’s much richer, he can get a meeting with a congressman in five minutes.

The problem is, the last eight years of the Bush administration has made Big Oil the wealthiest interest in the history of the planet.

That’s a lot more money than T. Boone Pickens has. Or Al Gore. Or the Sierra Club. Combined.

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Todd Spencer

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