Pickens: “You don’t want to turn it over to the greenies, or what’ll happen is they’ll want to shut down every coal plant”

The billionaire oilman and Swift-boat-smear funder T. Boone Pickens is a hard man for anyone to like these days.

His traditional political allies — rabid conservatives, fossil fuel companies — could not possibly be more opposed to his current agenda of pushing clean energy, especially a massive ramp up of wind power (see “Pickens learns the hard truth: Drill-only GOP hates alternative energy” and “Pickens in a pickle: He embraces progressive policies but not progressive politicians“).

Yet he really doesn’t try that hard to reach out to progressives who might be his allies, as indicated by the headline quote from his talk at the Mayflower Hotel ballroom in DC yesterday, reported in “The Beautiful Wind of T. Boone Pickens,” by snarky Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. Still, his general lack of interest in a progressive agenda should be a surprise to no one (see “New Pickens ad: “I say drill, drill, drill”).

I do take exception with Milbank’s brief foray into energy policy:

But while there are quibbles over the particulars, parts of the Pickens Plan are — or should be — uncontroversial: a new transmission grid to move renewable power, better energy efficiency, and using natural gas as a “bridge” fuel to power trucks and fleet vehicles until alternatives become more plentiful.

I don’t see why using natural gas as a transportation fuel on the scale Pickens wants “should be uncontroversial.”

We desperately need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and running big trucks on natural gas has modest GHG benefit at best. But if we really have as much natural gas as Pickens believes [and we may, as I’ll discuss in a future post], then we should not waste it in inefficient vehicle engines to replace petrol. We should use all of that natural gas in efficient gas turbines and super-efficient cogeneration systems (see “Recycled Energy — A core climate solution“) to replace coal. That strategy can achieve emissions reductions of two thirds.

And indeed, once we have a serious price for carbon dioxide, the market will naturally accomplish that switch from coal to natural gas, at least in the near and medium term.

Even Pickens himself has abandoned his original proposal of promoting natural gas vehicles for consumers (see “Pickens embraces electric vehicles“).

Right now, however, Pickens is a man without a country or at least a man without a constituency. He is basically an apostate to conservatives and fossil fuel lovers. But as long as he keeps dismissing global warming and dissing climate action advocates, he will be hard for progressives to take seriously.

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10 Responses to Pickens: “You don’t want to turn it over to the greenies, or what’ll happen is they’ll want to shut down every coal plant”

  1. Les Blevins says:

    There is a viable alternative to the Pickens plan and it’s called community supported energy. There is a viable renewable fuel to fuel community supported energy called biomass. Google Tam Hunt and Community Energy to read more about it.

    What is needed is a viable fuels conversion technology that can produce electric power or liquid biofuels or gaseous biofuels or Agrichar and be a better option for managing municipal trash, storm, flood and demolition debirs, scrap tires, old furniture and carpets and roofing materials and oil filters, and used oil, and aerosol cans and sewage sludge, and …..

  2. It is the combustion of coal that is toxic to our world, and CO2 emissions is not quite the same as CO2 concentrations. There is this tiny window of research opportunity in making cleaner combustion – of all hydrocarbons.

    I would think Pickins and other enlightened capitalists would be looking for these solutions… many universities are doing serious research, some companies promising check

    It is kind of like saying, I’m not against coal, I just object to how you are handling it.

  3. I have to clarify about handling CO2:

    To be clear, it is far easier and smarter to handle emissions by removing or halting CO2 than it is to reduce concentrations of existing CO2 in the atmosphere.

  4. GFW says:

    Did anyone catch T Boone on Bill Mahr’s “Real Time” last night? Bill did not let him off easy on his support of conservatives, reactionaries, and GWB over obviously more green-friendly progressives and Dems.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Richard Pauli — Absolutely.

  6. You have to respect his sincerity. An 80-year-old billionaire certainly has no need for more money, and he’s spending a lot on wind, which is far more likely than solar (even solar thermal) to make a significant contribution in the near term to the health of our planet.

    So give the guy credit for good motives, however much you may disagree with his judgment. Before starting a flame war with him, consider that he is well provided with expert advice, and he has shown good judgment in the past. I happen to agree with him about electric cars. Regarding coal plants, I’m afraid he’s right about emotionally-driven environmentalists not understanding the need for coal plants to provide electricity for those cars, at least during the next ten years.

  7. Jim Bullis says:


    Did not you see Harry Reid and Boone swear “best friends forever” at their meeting last August? It was one of your links.

    When I get some time I will get out my file on another great friend of Harry Reid, namely Harold Simmons. In 2001 they teamed up to get a special protectionist tariff in the face of free trade Republican policy. GWB happily signed it. That tariff gave the titanium company mostly owned by Simmons a 15% advantage over other titanium companies that had to buy the basic material from Russia. Harry Reid saved some jobs in Nevada and Simmons made a lot of money.

    Guess who also wrote checks with lots of zeros to finance the Swift smear.

    Wilmot, I think you are seeing Simmons correctly except for the part about sincerety. What might happen is that the public will provide cash to fund wind which he will gladly accept. Wind projects are big and showy, but the impact will not amount to much. Regardless he will take natural gas from the electricity generating role and move it to transportation. No longer will natural gas be pegged in price by coal. Rather its fungible exchangeability with oil will assert, so the price of natural gas will more closely match the cost per BTU of diesel fuel, which is about 2 to 5 times the present price of natural gas. Coal will continue to fuel the electric system, including the plug-in cars. Though he has no need for money, I suspect he will chuckle at outwitting the liberals.

  8. Jim Bullis says:


    Since you mentioned “recycled energy” look again at where a distributed cogeneration system is described that is based on very small automobile engine-generators.

    In this approach the heat produced is small enough that it can be fully used by a typical household in many places and seasonal conditions. You know the CO2 benefit, but if this could be worked out, then the cost would be minimal since the engine-generator equipment would be accountable as part of the automobile.

  9. Shelly says:

    I do not give Pickens credit for good motives. He is a conservative and he has said the environmental impact of his “plan” (which is for the purpose of making him money) is secondary to “getting us off of foreign oil”. Since most of our oil comes from Mexico and Canada, I find it hard to believe that he’s that concerned about Canada, at least.

    Good motives does not include being deceptive about natural gas. In fact, Pickens’s latest email today included the words ‘renewable’ and ‘clean’ when talking about natural gas. He is telling his followers (his “army”) that natural gas is — by inference and frequent use of these words — clean, green, renewable and alternative. That makes him a liar, in my book. I don’t know what Pickens’s game is, but he is really getting out of hand with his deception about natural gas. His followers, if you read his website, are under the impression that natural gas is clean. One person whose comment I read tonight actually said that natural gas was “good for the environment”. This is the idea that Pickens is selling. He obviuosly is being deceptive on purpose because he can’t possibly believe that natural gas is green and renewable, but this is the language he uses all over his website when referring to it — indirectly. You see? He doesn’t outright say it. But it’s everywhere by inference.

    Two weeks ago we saw college students marching in Washington against coal plants — great — for for natural gas, instead of solar and wind. — not good.

    Outwitting liberals? I fail to see how that’s something that should endear anyone to Pickens.

    Yes, he is out to make money.

  10. Shelly says:

    Oh yeah, the email today was about AT&T falling for his natural gas plan.

    “AT&T is going to replace 17 percent of its fleet – which is one of the largest in America – with vehicles running on natural gas and other renewable fuels. They are going to purchase 8,000 truck chassis built by an U.S. automaker and then they’ll work with domestic suppliers to convert those chassis to run on natural gas.”

    and notice the line:

    “…. and other renewable fuels….” implying that natural gas is renewable.