BUSINESS
09/22/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

T. Boone Pickens' Next Project: "Selling Water He Doesn't Own"

Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens is about to make a killing by selling water he doesn't own. As he does it, it will be praised as a planet-friendly wind project. After he pulls it off, the media will deride it as craven capitalism. In truth, it is one the most audacious examples of politics for profit, showing how big government helps the biggest business steal from the rest of us. The plotline behind Pickens' water-and-wind scheme is almost too rich to believe. If it were a movie script, reviewers would dismiss it as over-the-top.

The basic story amounts to this: Pickens, thanks to favors from state lawmakers whose campaigns he funded, has created a new government whose only voters are two of his employers; this has empowered Pickens to more cheaply pump water from an aquifer and, by use of eminent domain, seize land across 11 counties in order to pipe the water to Dallas. To win environmentalist approval of this hardly "sustainable" practice, he has piggybacked this water project onto a windmill project pitched as an alternative to oil.

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