07 September 2008

T. Boone Pickens: Shameless Self Promoter or America's Energy Champion?

I'm not a big television watcher. But this morning, I was watching Face the Nation and I saw a commercial by T. Boone Pickens promoting his Pickens Plan for energy independence.

Here's a surprise. I'm not sure it's a good idea. Why? Now, I am all for alternative fuel and clean fuel technology, for plans that encourage consumers to adopt energy-efficient lifestyles, but I question the shameless manner in which Pickens is trying to wrap himself in a veil of concern for Americans and line his pockets at the same time. Pickens has a history of promoting legislation that will benefit him personally. Case in point, the Proposition 10 on the California ballot, an initiative that will benefit substantially Picken's Clean Energy Fuel's Corporation.

Let's be clear. I think T. Boone's politics sucks to high heaven. He's a man who supported Dubya wholeheartedly. He had his fingers in the Swift Boat controversy. I am very concerned about his near monopoly on water in west Texas. However, I am more concerned by our glorification of rich folks and our willingness to buy into their "philanthropic" self-interests.

Yes, Pickens is a big supporter of the University of Oklahoma, his alma mater. He's a geologist. I have a little respect for a man with a science background. I don't fault his making money on energy. He is a speculator, a shrewd investor, and, let's face it, sometimes he was just plain lucky.

Picken's Plan web site has a shameless and telling line describing the man behind the plan:
He has not been shy in predicting oil and gas prices and — more often than not — has been uncannily accurate.
Perhaps Picken's uncanny predictions result from his ability to influence the commodities markets based on his portfolio. Maybe it results from his ability to appeal to the voters through very expensive national media campaigns. Maybe it results from his ability to influence research through philanthropy. While I don't disagree with it's philosophical intent, there is something inherently disingenuous about Picken's Plan. It's not philanthropy. It's not pure love of country. It is not a desire to wean our energy dependence from Saudia Arabia. Oh, I don't doubt that he truly does want to stick it to the Middle East, but I think he loves making money more than he hates the Saudis.

Luckily, not many CEOs have the money (although most probably have the balls) to go straight to the consumer to encourage them to support the companies that will make themselves richer. Am I alone here? It's a decent plan. Groundbreaking, in fact. But something about it just makes me feel a little bit dirty. It's like working hard your whole life for the opportunity of a lifetime, only to find out that you were hired because you have big knockers.

It's a new era in the disparity of wealth.

Comments welcome.

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