Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pickens' Wind Plan Loses Support as Oil Prices Fall

T. Boone Pickens and tree-hugging environmentalists make quite an odd couple. The man who says he has lost his fortune three times over is betting on wind power as the next big thing in energy. But the constituency most likely to support his efforts -- liberal-leaning Democrats -- often distrust his former career and politics.

Pickens is, after all, an 80-year-old former oilman, who the Washington Post's Dana Milbank says lost over $2 billion dollars last year after betting oil prices would continue to rise when they actually sunk to new lows. In the past, he was a supporter of the infamous Swift Boat attack against Sen. John Kerry and voted for Sen. John McCain in the last presidential election. When HBO's Bill Maher pointedly asked Pickens last week how he could justify his new-found support for clean energy when he previously supported candidates with a background in oil and coal, he brushed off the question by saying he wasn't a politician and said he did not support McCain's candidacy except as Maher said, "in the voting booth."

The "Pickens Plan" has taken its lumps of late, including the easily defeated Proposition 10 in California, which touted clean energy and tax credits for the purchase of hybrid vehicles. Detractors pointed out that Pickens had more than skin in the fight and may have financially benefited by its passage. The lack of investors and public policies in favor of his plan also hurt his efforts. Last fall, the Wall Street Journal reported that at least 50 percent of Pickens' investors had dropped out because of falling oil prices and the realization that the economy was entering a severe downturn. With oil prices currently in the low-to-mid $40-per-barrel range, it is no wonder the perpetually positive Pickens is bullish on oil prices rising. Reuters reported last week that Pickens predicts the price tag for a barrel of crude to rise to $75 by the end of the year.

Last October, Google CEO Eric Schmidt visited the Commonwealth Club also touting alternative methods of reducing the cost of oil on America's treasury. Read the post here and watch the speech here.

Therein lies the twin ironies of the Pickens Plan, where the acceptance and transition to clean energies such as wind and natural gas are predicated on oil men with an eye on oil futures along with the support of Americans most likely to consume less "Texas Tea."

You'll have an opportunity to find out for yourself what this enigmatic and controversial businessman believes. T. Boone Pickens will discuss his plan to build the world's largest wind farm and how America can begin to limit its addiction to foreign oil next Wednesday, March 25 at the Commonwealth Club. Click here for more information.


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