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 here and here).
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 here).
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 here) 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 here).
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.