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T Boone Pickens continues hard sell with blogger call

by a siegel Tue Oct 7th, 2008 at 05:19:36 PM EST

T Boone Pickens continues his hard sell efforts when it comes to the flawed Pickens' Plan.  Yesterday, a bipartisan group of bloggers had a teleconference with T Boone.  If one listens through 'the call', several points might jump out:

  1.  The bloggers seem have an uneven understanding of energy issues based on their comments and questions. In fact, the "right wing" bloggers seem to have basically no knowledge of energy issues. From the "left", several of the bloggers have legitimate claims to be energy/environmental experts.

  2.  At the end of the day, T Boone Pickens was able to get away with half-truths and untruths in the session.  

This was part of T Boone's promotion of an "e-rally" to be held before and after the Presidential debate this evening, with Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope joining him, to seek to influence the national debate toward T Boone's problem filled plan.


A brief review of the bipartisan blogger call with T Boone

The Pickens' Plan calls for developing wind electricity over the next decade to over 20 percent of US electrical demand. That renewable electricity would then displace all of the natural gas in the electrical grid. The natural gas would be then used in "compressed natural gas" to operate vehicles, thus offsetting imported oil and reducing America's dependence on imported oil.  

T Boone is calling for a national focus on the roughly hundreds of billions of dollars that are exported overseas to pay for imported oil. (Very roughly: 12 million barrels/day of imports = $1.7 billion/day or $613 billion/year.)  

His plan has good, bad, and ugly aspects that will come out, to a certain degree, in discussions of the blogger call.  

From the call

This discussion will simply go through the conversation in order, not discussing all questions.  (NOTE: Not a perfect transcript, although an effort to remain faithful to the blogger call.)

"No question that what we are working on has great appeal to the American people."  T Boone Pickens (TBP)

I would tend to agree that he is likely right. Like many 'sound bites', The Pickens' Plan can gain some real support, support that might dissipate if people understood its real implications.

"Just spent several days with 60 minutes. Will be on October 26th, just before the election."  TBP

T Boone Pickens is quite explicit about his desire to affect not just the national debate, but national decision-making. The $58 million (or so) being spent on the advertising and influence effort is clearly being well played. It is not just the mass of advertisements, not just the web site, not just T Boone's travels.  

And, whether meeting with Obama / Mccain / Palin, business leaders, liberal bloggers, media outlets, or otherwise, T Boone is having no problems gaining audiences.

Sadly, rather than beginning questions with core issues, at a large scale, the first question was in details of energy reserves and served to reinforce Pickens' expertise.  Sigh ... Lowell Feld asked about natural gas reserves, relying on conservative data from the Department of Energy.  T Boone Pickens was able to discuss, with great authority, how shale natural gas is expanding our very definition of reserves.  "Only point that I'm making is that we've expanded our assets ..." Score one for TBP and for establishing himself at the outset as "expert".

Conservative blogger John Hinderocker tried to turn the conversation toward support of Drill, Baby, Drill and Drillusion.  "Am I right in that right figure is reserves in the ground."  TBP wasn't interested in being drawn into this game and emphasized the difference between oil and natural gas:  "Isn't the same if you're looking for oil.  With Shale it's well known [for natural gas]." [Don't worry, we'll return to drilling.]

Another conservative blogger, John Hawkins, also sought to undercut renewables, this time with the shibbeleth that wind turbines eat up lots of land and that environmentalists are the real problem fro the nation:  "One of the things we focus ... Wind mills can take up 85 times as much land as a traditional power plant. ... environmentalists will opposed to them ... How can we build enough?"  TBP responded with, imho, disdain.:

Who's going to block a wind turbine?  You have to become acquainted where you are going to put them.  98% people want them, because of royalty payments.
 

While NIMBYism is blocking wind turbines in much of the country, this simply isn't the case in many of the best wind areas, including the 'wind belt' in the mid-west where The Pickens' Plan proposes deploying wind turbines.

Mark Sumner: "Since NG is far more efficient at heating homes than oil, shouldn't we focus on ending home heating oil by replacing it with natural gas." TBP emphasized the scope of the problem, that home heating oil doesn't solve the $700 billion annual problem that we face.

Don't think you're going to get there that fast.  In my conversation with Obama, I emphasized that we need to get real numbers. You're proud of your one million plug-in hybrids in a decade, when there are 250 million cars on the road.  We need to get numbers.  $700 billion is a huge number and we won't get there via home heating oil.
Note to T Boone: 7 percent of American homes are heated with home heating oil, often in inefficient structures, and the natural gas is a straight forward, high-efficiency substitute (along with, for example, biofuels).  

Would getting out of the home heating oil game solve America's oil dependency? Absolutely not.

This response points to a weakness of The Pickens' Plan: it is stove-piped and not holistic.  There is no good reason why T Boone could not have incorporated this as part of his plan to reduce America's oil dependency. But, perhaps this has something to do with the fact that T Boone's key natural gas play is in the business of providing compressed natural gas (and compressor systems) for transportation and not in the retail supply of natural gas for heating, cooling, cooking, etc ...

TBP was asked to speak about his "Energy Army Initiative".  TBP:

We've signed up 600,000 people via the website. I have a lot more influence with 600,000 people behind me when I go to Washington than just being an oilman from Texas.  ... being a billionaire, when I go to Washington, I don't have to wait to see anybody due to my wealth.  But, with a million people supporting me, I think that I'll be listened to more closely.
Pickens is mobilizing an "army" in support of his flawed plan. Let me be clear, no aggravation from me if he makes $billions from this, the problem is that it won't solve the nation's problems when it comes to energy and global warming. And, pursuit of this flawed plan could doom efforts to make meaningful change.

Conservative blogger David Hall asked about TBP's meeting with Sarah Palin.  TBP:

The conversation was 98 percent about energy, She's very knowledgeable about energy in Alaska. But she hasn't had the opportunity to learn much about energy outside Alaska.  ... She's had more experience with energy than Senator Obama or McCain.
 

Amusing that the person who, supposedly, is the nation's top energy expert doesn't know much about energy outside Alaska. If she has "more experience", that doesn't make up for the fact that Sarah is no energy expert and is deceptive when she talks about energy.

Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake asked, basically, "Why?" TBP:  

I've seen the problem from Richard Nixon forward that politicians say "elect me and we'll be energy independent".  ... Over 35 years we've never had an energy plan.  ... I'm 85 years old ...This is our opportunity to get out of the trap.
 

Okay, there have been energy plans, most significantly Jimmy Carter's. There is, as T Boone says, a "leadership vacuum", but it is not because there haven't been plans and concepts throughout the past 35 years.

Jane asked about profits from the deal.  TBP:  

With the financial situation of the country, there is no way that I can pull off what I was planning alone and will need partners.  ... I don't make any investment without an intention to make money.
"

My thought: What is the problem with someone making profits?  Profiteering is a problem. But, at the root of it, whether or not someone makes a lot of money is irrelevant as to whether it is the right thing for the nation looking forward. Profits for T Boone Pickens aren't the problem with The Pickens' Plan.

Mark Sumner:  If I said "When you said you're not interested in the environment and you're funding James Inhofe, do you understand that there are those of us who are concerned about energy and the environment who find problems with this?" PICKENS:  "

In conversations with Al Gore, I said that #1 for me was the $700 billion and Global Warming is #2.  

My record is a very good record on the environment. [Editorial comment: choking, painful laughter.]

The natural gas that I am proposing as a bridge fuel is 80% cleaner than gasoline.  So, I don't step back from the green-clean position, I'm right up there with that ... I do not think it is realistic to go directly to the battery or the hyrdrogen.  ... In discussions that I've had with Gore, I don't find ourselves far apart.  ... Just so happens that the cleaner fuel is natural gas, which we have in abundance in this country.  Now, if the Saudis had natural gas and we had oil, I would be supporting drilling because of problem #1.

 

That last bit lays the situation out clearly, global warming is (at most) an afterthought for T Boone Pickens rather than an integrated issue with trying to deal with Peak Oil and Global Warming in an integrated fashion.

Jonathan Singer of MyDD to to a core issue:  "Can we drill our way out of it?  Whether oil or natural gas?  Can we produce our way out of it or does there have to be efficiency and conservation?"  PICKENS:  

We have to do something about conservation and there are lots of good ideas out there, but I don't want to get into it.  All the ideas about drilling don't look at the scale of the problem. We're importing 12 million barrels / day, but there is no way   We're producing 5 million barrels / day of oil and 2 million / day of NG liquids.  How much can we do?  If we could get 2 million / day for ANWR and off the coasts, would I take it?  In a minute ...

It is great, of course, that right-wing Republican oil driller T Boone Pickens recognizes simply reality: that we can't drill our way out of our problems.  Score that point for T Boone.

This points to one of the most serious problems of The Pickens' Plan. It is a stove-piped focus on supply, with no discussion of or focus on attacking the demand-side of the equation.  Staying within TBP's focus on natural gas, The Picken's Plan focuses on conversion of cars to running on compressed natural gas (CNG), rather than talking about the need for more efficient vehicles that will run on natural gas.   If we think about "fleet" vehicles, there are many buses running on CNG. If using CNG, why not 'hybrid' buses that would use less CNG, thus enabling more vehicles to use CNG and reducing total emissions even more?  Oops, again, that would provide a path toward reducing T Boone's future profits, no?

Jerome Guillet, , Oil Drum, focused on technical issues related to wind and wind financing. "What is the value added in your campaign, the only limit is industrial capacity which is constrained by the PTC.  The only other obstacle to wind developing is the grid, which is something that needs to be dealt with by regulators.  You don't bring anything to the table other than natural gas."  PICKENS:  "What I am providing is a path to   "I don't see anybody else with a plan."  This turned into a back-and-forth between Guillet and Pickens, with Pickens basically stating that Guillet is a negativist, looking backward, not offering solutions while Pickens is looking forward. This was a sad interchange to listen to considering that Guillet was one of the founding inspirations for and leading actors in what might have been the first serious effort to use the web to develop energy policy:  Energize America.  This point, not discussed in the blogger call, highlights as disingenous a key Pickens point: that nobody else has a plan.  In fact, there are many (MANY) plans out there, such as Apollo Alliance, Energize America, the Democratic Party candidates in the presidential primaries (such as Bill Richardson), and so on.  

Conservative blogger John Hinderocker asked about wind turbines:  "I must confess that I haven't spent the time to look at your plan and don't have an intuitive sense of how much energy you can produce by wind. ... "  Pickens:  "You could do whatever you want to with wind if you have the desire to do it and the money to do it ..."  JH:  "I am very familiar with those large wind mills and I'm assuming that is what we're talking about.  How many would take?"  TBP: "My 4000 MW would take 2500, so take 50 times that would be over 100,000.  Just imagine how many jobs that would create." This last points to the value of Green Jobs and how moving toward a renewable (and energy efficient) future could provide a boost to the economy.

A brief recap

This blogger call highlights several things:

   

  • T Boone Pickens' sophisticated effort to influence energy policy.
  •    

  • That T Boone Pickens has no interest, it seems, in learning from others. This is a major weakness in taking The Pickens' Plan seriously: there is no indication that T Boone has any interest in learning from others and in adopting good ideas from others to strengthen The Pickens Plan. He is pushing his flawed and dangerous plan, with utter disregard for reality as to its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Brief selection of blogosphere discussions of The Pickens Plan

    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: T Boone Pickens, 8/26, A Siegel

    Pickens' Plan vs Pickens' Problem, 8/21,  A Siegel

    Picking at Pickens' Plan, 7/8,  A Siegel

    The Big Green Tent, 8/24, A Siegel

    T. Boone Pickens Loves You and Wants to Use Your Credit Card, 8/30,  JohnnyRook

    T Boone Pickens trying to pick Californians Pockets, 9/9,  JohnnyRook

    T Boone Pickens Fancy Sales Pitch, 8/27,  Plutonium Page

    Is T Boone Pickens selling you shinola, or something else?, 8/26,  ApolloGonzales

    Sarah Palin and Boone Pickens: Birds of a Feather, 10/7, Josh Nelson

    Memo to T Boone Pickens:  Your energy plan is half-baked, 7/8,  Joe Romm, Climate Progress (former Assistant Secretary Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, DOE)

    Pickens learns the hard truth: drill-only GOP hates alternative energy, 9/23, Joe Romm

    Why T Boone Pickens' 'Clean Energy' Plan is a Ponzi Scheme, 8/21, Scott Thill

    Pickens' Natural Gas Plan Makes No Sense and will never happen, 9/26, Earl Killian

    Mr Pickens Half-Right Plan, 7/25, Bill Becker, Presidential Climate Action Plan

    Display:
    I would like to read what Mr. a Paris has to say about the call.

    "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
    by Crazy Horse on Tue Oct 7th, 2008 at 08:11:43 PM EST
    See also proposition 10 on the 2008 California ballot. $5 billion in taxpayer money - effectively to subsidize Picken's natural gas interests.

    This guy is a devious huckster, to put it really, really nicely.

    you are the media you consume.

    by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Oct 8th, 2008 at 12:19:34 AM EST
    See the link about Pickens trying to pick Californians' pockets.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!
    by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Wed Oct 8th, 2008 at 07:43:23 AM EST
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