Climate

Pickens in a pickle: He embraces progressive policies but not progressive politicians.

T. Boone PickensI interviewed the billionaire conservative oilman for Salon. My article and the interview are now online here. My goal was not to trip him up with the flaws in his plan, but just explore some of the key issues, especially the role of government in making it happen.

Talking to him it is clear he is very genuinely concerned about the impoverishment we face on our current laissez-faire energy path — a $10 trillion transfer of weath from Americans to rest of the world over the next decade, ending with $300 a barrel oil.

But I simply couldn’t get him to acknowledge that or all his claims that his proposal is nonpartisan, it is his fellow conservatives who stand in the way of achieving his dream. The subtitle of the piece tells the story: “The oil tycoon’s support of John McCain for president demonstrates that his heavily advertised plan for wind power is only hot air.”

Pickens says “The government’s going to have to provide corridors to transmit the wind energy to the east and west coast… Second you need to put a 10-year production tax credit.”

I couldn’t agree more. But then again, I’m not in Congress. So I asked him the obvious political question: If you looked at the votes in the last year that have held up just a one-year extension of the production tax credit, the vast majority of Republicans have consistently voted against that, while the vast majority of Democrats voted for it. “So let me ask you, how do we, how do we get Republicans to support that kind of investment in renewables.”

Salon sharply edited down Pickens’ rambling answer to my key question, but I think it is worthwhile to see the whole thing:

Well, you’re, I think you do it with your people and it all has to take place between today and the first election then you go in 100 days, and it has to go in 100 days to be able to do what I’m saying do, and if we don’t get it in there, you know, I just say the hell with it, just let it go. However it’s not going to go because in 10 years you’re gonna have $300 oil, you’ll be importing 80 percent of your oil and you’ll be forever crippled, so if you can, if you can make them understand in Congress, Republicans and Democrats both that this is not a partisan issue

In short, blah, blah, blah.

Pickens just can’t bring himself to oppose the people who mock and block his plan, the people whose policies he says will leave this country “forever crippled.” In fact, he keeps throwing money at them.

In the year ending June 30, Pickens has given nearly $100,000 to Republican party candidates and organizations, but nothing — zilch — to the Democratic Party. He has thrown $38,500 to the Republican National Committee and $14,250 to the National Republican Senatorial Campaign, even though the Senate failed to stop a filibuster by the Republicans who were blocking the renewable energy tax credits that Pickens kno ws we desperately need. Heck, Pickens has given $4,600, the maximum allowed by law, to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the global warming denier who opposes all alternatives to fossil fuels.

The Wonkroom reports on an exchange between Pickens and CAPAF President John Podesta at a recent panel:

At the end of the conversation, Podesta and Pickens talked about their political differences. Pickens … admitted he is inclined to defend oil companies, who work for their shareholders and are run by his friends. When challenged by Podesta for having given significant contributions to “the gang on Capitol Hill who have been blocking the renewable production tax credit,” Pickens, with resignation apparent in his face, said, “I grind on them . . . I don’t have the time.” He argued that he is now trying to act on behalf of the American people, to avoid being partisan, to move past the old politics — the politics that he has spent millions to sustain.

In short, blah, blah, blah.

And then there’s the man Pickens has said he is supporting for president, John McCain. The Arizonan has been one of the most consistent opponents of renewable electricity in the Senate, even though his state has some of the largest renewable resources in the country (see The real, Luddite McCain: “The truly clean technologies don’t work” and “Why McCain hates renewables but pretends he loves them” and “Anti-wind McCain delivers climate remarks at foreign wind company“).

McCain missed eight straight votes on extending renewable tax credits for just one year; his spokesman made clear he would’ve voted against the tax credits had he bothered to show up.

Even after meeting with Pickens, McCain told a town hall last month

This is where Mr. Pickens and I disagree a little bit… We all love solar. Is there anybody that doesn’t love solar power? But when we look at the actual contributions, compared with the increased demand for energy that’s gonna be part of American in the next 20 years, it does not meet much of those demands.

Pickens believes wind by itself could pretty much meet all those demands — as does the Bush administration’s own Department of Energy.

An important aside: If McCain believes what he is saying about clean technology, then his plan to require the United States to cut fossil fuel emissions 60 percent to 70 percent in four decades is obviously a fraud, aimed at capturing the votes of gullible moderates.

If you back McCain and the GOP, then you must want energy policies that will leave this country forever crippled economically, forever vulnerable to the whims of the oil-producing nations like Russia, Venezuela and the Persian Gulf states. Until Pickens puts his money behind progressive politicians, then his quest for progressive policies will remain an impossible dream.

Read the Salon piece and listen to the interview here.

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11 Responses to Pickens in a pickle: He embraces progressive policies but not progressive politicians.

  1. charlie says:

    A kind of serious typo:

    “Even after meeting with Pickens, Obama told a town hall last month”

    Shouldn’t that be McCain?

    [JR: As they used to say at M.I.T., spoo!]

  2. Russ says:

    Yeah, I thought that quote looked familiar, but it looked more like McCain.

  3. John Hollenberg says:

    One other typo: “acknowledge that or all his claims”, which I assume should be “for all his claims”. Very good article.

  4. Ronald says:

    It’s just not enough controversy to get on the Main Stream Media. You should have hit him or have gotten him to hit you before the MSM will print a controversy of ideas instead of a controversy or conflict between people. Great article.

  5. hapa says:

    i want us to be vulnerable to the whims of canada. canadians are so spontaneous and fun!

  6. Bob Wallace says:

    Do you expect every personal conversion to be a Saul/Paul moment – a sudden great light and booming voice – that changes them instantly?

    Much more likely that we all reach change via a process, one that can take long periods of time.

    Pickens is reaching his awareness in a gradual way starting with what he knows best – oil.

    He has incredible access to oil-related information. He can see that supplies will continue to tighten and that more and more American money will flood overseas causing significant damage to the country.

    Luckily he found out that wind is a partial solution. Now he’s finding out that the people that he has historically supported are not working toward the change that he now recognizes are necessary.

    Don’t beat him back into the folds of the Right with big sticks. Encourage him to question more of his previously held positions.

    We greatly need his money and influence to help speed up solutions. A few “big people” coming around will open the flood doors for many others.

  7. JCH says:

    Being in the oil investment business, I’m supposed to like T-bone. In ways I do, but the welching rat-fink weasel owes John Kerry money.

  8. David Doty says:

    Indeed, natural gas would share some of the storage problems seen by hydrogen. There is a better solution. We at Doty Energy have shown that it will be practical to make all the transportation fuels we need, cost effectively, from CO2 and wind energy. The science is absolutely sound. Check it out at windfuels.com. WindFuels are 5 times better than biofuels from a carbon emissions perspective. This is a major breakthrough that ClimateProgress needs to discuss and promote.
    David Doty

  9. paulm says:

    Bob wrote …A few “big people” coming around will open the flood doors for many others.

    ‘Sustainists’ should specifically target ‘big people’ (in every sense) to convince them of the catastrophe round the corner. A few key individuals will cause the cascade needed. If the Clintons, Gates, Jobs, church leaders etc were to step it up a level we would be 3/4 the way there.

    Many do have a vaguely understand what is a head, but not the extent and the speed that events will unfold in. It is painful to move to the behavior and customs required to tackle this problem and so we keep putting off action.

    We need leadership.

  10. shop says:

    McCain missed eight straight votes on extending renewable tax credits for just one year; his spokesman made clear he would’ve voted against the tax credits had he bothered to show up.

  11. sikiş says:

    I couldn’t agree more. But then again, I’m not in Congress. So I asked him the obvious political question: If you looked at the votes in the last year that have held up just a one-year extension of the production tax credit, the vast majority of Republicans have consistently voted against that, while the vast majority of Democrats voted for it