08/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Senate Dems Getting Warm and Cozy with T Boone Pickens

Perhaps due to the very concept that a conservative Republican would embrace wind power and well aware of his $10s of millions in advertising resources, too many leading Democratic Party politicians have seemingly embraced T Boone Pickens and have given him extensive private access to private Democratic events.

Now, putting aside the not-minor issue that T Boone is unapologetic for his leading role in funding and supporting the vicious and deceit-laden swift-boating of the Democratic Party Presidential nominee, John Kerry, in 2004, there is the quite serious reality that The Pickens Plan is fatally flawed and those flaws are not brought to the table at these events were Pickens is warmly greeted as "a friend."

Tomorrow, this problematic pattern continues as T Boone will speak to a private Senate D lunch.

Since launching The Pickens Plan in 2008, T Boone Pickens has become a face for American households about the potential for changing America's energy structure.

In short, T Boone advocates for a program that would reduce America's dependence on overseas oil by:
  • Constructing a major wind electricity generation and transmission capability
  • Use that wind to displace the 20+% of electricity from natural gas
  • Use the natural gas, instead, for transportation (cars, buses, trucks)
While T Boone's down-home style and $10s of millions of investment in advertising/ web services etc. have helped build up quite a following, the details of the plan don't stand up to any serious scrutiny:

Even with all these problems, T Boone has lots of friends in Congress, three of whom recently introduced a bill to advance T Boone's plan. From Robert Menendez's web site:

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) were joined today by energy-independence advocate T. Boone Pickens to tout new legislation that would boost vehicles that run on clean natural gas. The NAT GAS Act, introduced today by Menendez and co-sponsored by Reid and Hatch, would extend and increase tax credits for natural gas vehicles and refueling.

That bill would greatly increase resources toward natural gas vehicles when the resources could be better spent elsewhere and otherwise to reduce America's oil dependency.

And, T Boone has had quite a bit of access within leading Democratic Party circles. For example, Nancy Pelosi (whose husband, by the way, invests with T Boone) arranged for T Boone to speak with the House Caucus.

This private access continues tomorrow, as the Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) will (reportedly) have T Boone Pickens as its speaker at its weekly lunch.

DPC Lunches. Every Thursday the Senate is in session, the DPC hosts a lunch at which senators hear from leading figures in government, politics, business and journalism. Past guests have included Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Henry Paulson, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, John Sweeney, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Moyers, Tim Russert, and Tom Friedman.

Yes, it seems that T Boone could meet the requirement of being a "leading figure" but we have to wonder whether there is going to be anyone in the room prepared with the information to and willing to challenge T. Boone Pickens' smooth truthiness-laden sales pitch.

And, let us not forget that this is occurring just as the Senate is struggling to figure out how to develop a sensible energy and climate bill to marry up with the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act. Anyone doubt that T Boone will push hard for funding for natural gas vehicles?

Is there no one else?

Now, T Boone has spent much of the time since putting forward The Pickens Plan saying that there is no one else with an energy plan and challenging others to 'come up with a plan' if we don't like his. Well, the reality has been that there were lots of plans out there prior to his launching The Pickens' Plan and there are many still around. If the DPC is interested in having a serious discussion about energy issues with people whose plans will enrich the United States, improve U.S. security, and mitigate climate change, there are many (MANY) people to have in for a lunch before bringing in T Boone. No, rather than bring in serious people who are discussing serious solutions, the DPC is bringing a snake-oil salesman who merits credit for dishonorable attacks on the 2004 Democratic Party presidential nominee ... Giving T Boone such prominence is bad for energy policy and bad politics. Now, the insanity of this embrace is that The Pickens Plan is a Potemkin Village, on many levels, and is not good on fiscal, energy, or environmental grounds. This is simply bad politics: what should be done is setting Pickens up as the extreme of legitimate debate. He is offering a fossil-fuel heavy (natural gas rather than oil) answer to our challenges, while admitting that Climate Change is a reality. This should be laid out, clearly, as the limit of legitimate debate and discussion (with some elements of Pickens concepts/plan worthy of inclusion) rather than embracing Pickens as some form of (false) messiah.

Some unanswered questions

Monday, I asked the DPC the following questions, to which they have yet to respond:

I understand that the DPC will be having in T Boone Pickens in for a private luncheon this week. Questions:
  • Does this indicate endorsement of "The Pickens Plan"?
  • What other energy experts has the DPC brought in for conversations/private lunches in the past year? Past two years?
  • Will there be any public record of what is said at this session?
  • Has anyone done a financial analysis of The Pickens Plan?
  • What concerns does the DPC have over T Boone Pickens' significant role in the swiftboating of Senator John Kerry in 2004?
I will be writing on this within the next 48 hours and would therefore expect a quick turnaround on these questions.

Some discussions of The Pickens Plan

For a concept on how T Boone's gas for vehicles concept could be combined with other developments to potential have a real impact, see: T Boone: Why not get inventive?

Below is a dated list, from last fall, but provides some paths toward understanding The Pickens Plan's 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