I’m here at an panel on the Pickens Plan, featuring Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, John Podesta of the Center for American Progress, and T. Boone himself. (And I have internet access!)
Most interesting tidbit to come from the panel: T. Boone had a 30 second commercial that began, "Iran is moving its vehicle fleet to natural gas so it can sell oil to us at $140 a barrel. And we’re doing absolutely nothing about it." NBC rejected the ad! They said, "can you prove we’re doing nothing about it?" (I’ve tried to find the commercial online — I’ll post it if I can track it down.)
Otherwise, there were no fireworks — mainly because the session was never opened up to questions from the audience. I know lots of people were geared up to ask aggressive questions — the green left is in an uproar about Pickens. They think he’s constructed his entire plan as a triple-bank-shot attempt to make more money from water rights and … I don’t know, a bunch of other stuff that makes him Satan. See here.
I have trouble getting worked up about it. The first thing Pickens said is that he’s given $700 million to charity over the last five years, and that when he dies his entire estate will be donated to charity. "This isn’t about making money." Now, maybe he’s lying. Maybe he wants to make more money … so he can give more to charity? Maybe he’s lying about giving money to charity?
But the notion that he would go through this elaborate, baroque effort to make money, when he has so much money already, and so many opportunities to make more money when he wants … it’s just not plausible to me.
Pickens also said nice things about climate change and Gore — he said it’s "on page two" for him, and he’ll work on that once he reduces the oil imports, but he’s not a denier, he’s not working against climate change solutions.
He’s also dialed down the natural gas stuff a bit — now he’s mainly pushing it as a substitute transportation fuel for the truck shipping fleet, which turns over quickly and could be shifted to nat gas much more seamlessly. (Also, trucks aren’t really amenable to electrification, without much better batteries.)
The point I’m getting around to — and the panel just reinforced this for me — is that it seems perfectly sensible for Carl Pope and other enviros to be opportunistically taking advantage of Pickens’ money and his high profile to be driving smart energy policy. Pickens’ plan is one among others — Gore’s plan, CAP’s plan. The point is to build a head of steam, to build momentum behind the notion that we need a plan. As Pickens said, "a fool with a plan will beat a genius without one every time."
I’d go even farther: I’ve seen Pickens speak several times now, and each time he seems a bit softer, a bit more mellow, and a bit happier. I tend to think doing good work is good for his crusty old soul. He’s finding out that people he’s long thought of as evil Socialist whatevers are actually good, smart, pragmatic people, willing to work with him toward common goals. Doing work to unite people is having a salutary effect on him, and it seems to me we’d be smart to encourage that, make a model of it, rather than rejecting it and him out of old animosities and weird conspiracy theories.
It is not good political strategy to erect high walls around your issue and keep people out. I am sick of purity tests. Yay for T. Boone!
(Warning: I’m exhausted from very little sleep and may be slightly punchy. I reserve the right to completely change my mind about this tomorrow.)