Sunday, March 08, 2009

Slim "Pickens" On Energy From A Life-Long Repug

I came across this Daily Kos post recently in which a diarist claimed that Bill Maher “destroyed” T. Boone Pickens recently on “Real Time” over the matter of the “Pickens Plan” originator doing his best to slander Democratic presidential candidates, so I took a look at the video.

Well, let’s just say that the video didn’t live up to the diarist’s hyperbole, though I give this person (assuming only one here) credit for highlighting it.

Yes, Maher did ask Pickens point blank why he funded groups that slung all kinds of mud at Dem presidential candidates Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 (we know about Gore’s “cred” on environmental issues, but Kerry was one of the organizers of the very first Earth Day events, as noted here, to say nothing of the fact that Kerry has consistently supported wind energy development, even to the point where he is letting the “Cape Wind” development process play itself out before taking a position on it). And Pickens’ answer regarding his “green” conversion (namely, that the price of gas wasn’t as high in 2000 or 2004 as it is now) was patently absurd for anyone claiming to work on behalf of the environment (which Pickens isn’t as far as I’m concerned). And yes, Maher should have ripped Pickens’ head off for such an idiotic response.

(To digress, this is where I “gnash my teeth” over Maher. I have to keep reminding myself that, while he is usually an astute political commentator, he is also an entertainer, and he has to “throw a bone” to the right wingers from time to time or else he’d never get them on his show. And if he didn’t get them on his show, he’d lose a chunk of his audience. This is the little “tightrope” of sorts that he walks, and hence the reason why, after quite rightly tearing the head off of, say, Coulter one week, he’ll be all kissy-face and nice-nice with people like Repug House Reps Jack Kingston of Georgia and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida the next, with all three of these people being ideological partners of each other as far as I’m concerned.)

Pickens should have been held to account more by Maher particularly because there were indeed differences in the energy policies of Kerry and Dubya in 2004, including the matter of cleaning up the cancer-causing gasoline additive MTBE from our drinking water, which held up Congressional approval of an energy bill in 2004. Kerry wanted the manufacturers to take care of it, and Dubya opposed it, naturally; as a result of Dubya winning re-election in 2004 – discounting what happened in Ohio, of course – an energy bill was passed that provided legal immunity for the rich Saudi company (any other kind?) SABIC, which happens to be the leading maker of MTBE (the bill had strong support from Tom DeLay, of course, noted here).

But of course, Pickens has never been or will be an environmentalist; as noted here, Pickens really isn’t even “on board” with Al Gore on the climate crisis, as follows…

"(Gore) asked if we could we join together and do something," Pickens explained to Bloomberg News. "I told him no, because global warming is on page two for me. Page one is foreign oil.''
Yep, I think Pickens is actually right about that, but not in the way he would have us believe…

"Even under the Pickens Plan," explains Treehugger's Matthew McDermott, "the U.S. will be importing a significant amount of oil. It's a step toward energy independence in that it expands renewable energy production, but I think framing this debate in terms of energy independence isn't the way to go. If you want to take a populist angle on this, pushing the very real benefits that wind power and renewables in general can have in local economies stands on much more solid ground."

If Pickens were a populist, that might be true. But he's not; he's a stone-cold capitalist whose taste for profit outweighs his desire for the common good. Pickens may have spent $3 billion on wind farms to generate enough electricity to take the load off natural gas, which is currently used to heat homes and more, but only so that it can be used for cars and trucks.
The Alternet article also points out that Pickens is the head of BP Capital Management, a “hedge fund” that has extensive holdings in Pickens’ supposedly hated “foreign oil” interests, such as Halliburton (of course) and KBR.

But I think Pickens’ scheme to develop wind energy, as told in the article, has two parts. The first is to act as a fallback if he can’t make money from oil or natural gas (with the latter also used to generate electricity, as the story tells us – I don’t begrudge Pickens on this as a matter of trying to make money, since he is a businessman after all). The second part, though, is truly pernicious…

The biggest stain on the Pickens Plan is its architect's distasteful history of water privatization. According to (Food and Water Watch's Wenonah) Hauter, it is probably the biggest reason, more than all the aforementioned, not to trust him.

"With the water crisis looming in the future and his track record on selling water regardless of the environmental cost," she asserts, "Pickens will be viewed in the future as irresponsible. His background on promoting renewable energy can't erase his current disregard for the sustainable use of water. He recently supplemented his property holdings in Texas with 200,000 acres of land atop the Ogallala Aquifer. Under Texas law, this purchase entitles Mesa Water, Pickens' new company, to take more than 320,000 acre-feet of water, equivalent to more than 104 million gallons, from the property. The Ogallala is already severely depleted, and it's outrageous that he can stick a pipe in the ground and suck this water out without any environmental impact assessment."

Pickens has used all manner of stratagems to obtain rights to what is not a recreational, but an essential, resource for supporting life on the planet. He has spent more than $100 million to acquire water from outlying areas in Texas to sell to its metropolitan hubs, and although he hasn't yet found a buyer, it's only a matter of time. Blue gold is the new black gold, and it won't be long until the world is thirsty from one end to the other. Using his wind investment to fuel his water privatization has only made things worse.

"Pickens used the enormous wind farm erected on his property as a means to lobby for the right to pipe the Ogallala water to a major metropolitan center," Hauter adds. "He successfully passed a bill through the Texas Legislature to allow a water-supply district to transport alternative energy and water in a single corridor. Pickens also successfully loosened the legal definitions of a water district, allowing him to invoke the right of eminent domain so that he could build the pipeline through the property of several neighboring landowners. We should be concerned with these types of underhanded business dealings."
So it sounds to me like Pickens is pushing his wind farm proposals as part of a scheme to gradually take control over all of the naturally produced energy assets of this planet, with his abuse of water rights being the most deceitful of them all (he plainly sees the coming crisis of water resources and is trying to use his wind farms to take as much control of this commodity as he can, for profit of course).

It is now crystal clear to me why Pickens sells himself as an energy conscious entrepreneur among media friendly outlets and fellow Republicans. If he were to try this among legitimately “green” Democrats, he would be quickly called out for the utter fraud that he truly is.

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