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I grew up in Houston, Texas. Maybe that made me more susceptible than most to the romanticized idea of being a Texas oil man. At the age of 18, the same summer I graduated high school, I went to work for a family friend selling oil field supplies to oil companies in West Texas and Mexico. It was a dream job for me. I met some very wealthy men and heard stories about growing up dirt poor and making a fortune by pulling oil from otherwise worthless ground. Every year I went to the famed Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), where they would erect an offshore drilling rig in the parking lot of the Astrodome. The oil rig was just the start though, because oil companies offered helicopter rides onto the rig. Spending time with these men meant eating $80 steaks, wearing $300 Stetson cowboy hats, and in the case of the oil men from Mexico, riding in Suburbans retrofitted with bullet proof glass. In those formative years I jumped at the opportunity to sit with the Bush family at the ballpark to watch the Houston Astros, although I don’t think we ever exchanged a word other than hello.

No offense to my alma matter American University where I later earned my undergraduate degree, but I learned more in the 4 years working with oil men than I ever learned anywhere else in my life. I learned how to shake a man’s hand and look him in the eye. I learned how to make an honorable deal, and how to break that deal without losing an ounce of respect. I learned that for many business men, after family, money is the most important thing. I learned that you always have to listen very carefully to hear everything an oil man is telling you. And finally, I learned how to tell when someone is trying to sell you something other than the shinola you agreed to buy.

Very recently a west Texas oil man, T. Boone Pickens, has paid his way into the spot light. He is the very picture of the American oil man I imagined when I was younger. The accent and the cadence of his speech capture his audience instantly. The environmental community was captivated by Mr. Pickens when he said, in his first commercial regarding the oil crisis, "we can’t drill our way out." Now, in Denver, during one of the most historic events of my lifetime, I am surrounded by some of the best environmental bloggers in the country. We bloggers pride ourselves in our independence and aversion to being co-opted by anyone, but guess who is a major sponsor here at the Big Tent? Mr. Pickens, has certainly made his presence known.

A couple of days ago, Mr. Pickens, who has recently been giving helicopter rides to some of our friends, released his latest video  and in opening lines he says, "I say drill, drill, drill." The commercial has caused some buzz for sure, and the conversations about the value of the rest of the ad are varied. But here is what it boils down to – Mr. Pickens is a business man. His investments in the oil market are volatile, wind and natural gas are less susceptible to global market influences. Listen closely to his ads, he doesn’t want to get America off oil, just foreign oil. That’s it. Don’t let the pretty images of wind turbines fool you, and "clean natural gas" isn't as clean as you may think. Mr. Pickens is looking out for Mr. Pickens.

So while I admire Mr. Pickens for being a maverick all of his life, I know shinola from what he is actually selling. I just hope everyone else does too.

Originally posted to apollogonzales on Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 09:49 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Had My Say (5+ / 0-)

    They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

    by Limelite on Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 09:52:19 AM PDT

  •  Politics makes strange bedfellows. (4+ / 0-)

    I accept "getting off foreign oil" as a goal that is good in itself.  

    McCain Plan for Economy: US to divorce first wife, marry rich heiress nation.

    by Inland on Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 09:53:02 AM PDT

    •  But his 'solution' serves him, not us (0+ / 0-)

      We all agree that T. Boone is an ally in bringing to the fore the danger of imported oil. And of Peak Oil.

      But as this diary notes, his Plan is to DRILL DRILL DRILL.  He wants our scarce capital to support a national system of natural gas vehicles - which increases demand for the 2 resources he controls - water and gas..  

      Natural gas is a very small improvement over oil in stemming the climate catastrophe.  Natural gas is much  more valuable as a replacement to coal. And efficiency is a much more important first step.

      But the T. Boone Plan is all about extracting fossil fuels at the quickest rate possible - and probably defeating the Democratic candidates that would work toward the solutions that solve Foreign Oil AND Climate Catastrophe.

      "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."

      by oregonj on Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 10:29:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is a massive trade deficit (0+ / 0-)

        The US trade imbalance is a far bigger problem than the Federal deficit.

        If there were no foreign oil imports, the US would have its trade in balance and there would be far fewer foreign companies buying up US companies.

        Wind and solar energy are very capital intensive, significantly more than conventional energy and nuclear.  The country will not have the capital to make the massive investment in wind and solar - unless we have a transition strategy - such as natural gas and others to reduce the massive trade deficit from imported oil.

        Also wind and solar is a large tax and credit loss for the government (adding to the deficit) due to the very large tax credits and subsidies the solar and wind and biomas industries receive, while the oil and gas industry pays a large portion of taxes by itself. The oil and gas industry by itself pays more in federal income taxes than 1/2 the households in the country.

        The country needs to transition to non-carbon energy over time so that the economy does not collapse and needs such as healthcare, education, secure retirement for seniors and an increasing standard of living for all Americans.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 05:51:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Didn't he help fund... (2+ / 0-)

    the "Swiftboaters" in 2004?  Thought I heard that on TV....

  •  He's bucking for sustainables (0+ / 0-)

    It's like having republicans vote for Obama.

    We need the vote, even though they might be severely damaged goods.

    About the life lessons, my reactions:

    I learned how to shake a man’s hand and look him in the eye.

    It's something good business people learn to do.  Like you learn how to act, or how to hold a poker face.  It's meaningless unless it's backed up by the honest actions it presumes to represent.

    I learned how to make an honorable deal, and how to break that deal without losing an ounce of respect.

    Good thing or bad thing?  Kind of like "I hear you, and those people who brought down these buildings are going to hear you".  That deal got broken too.  Do you suppose that was done with the same oil man finesse?

    I learned that for many business men, after family, money is the most important thing.

    Really?  And you think that might be admirable?  I'm just asking, you didn't say.  To me after family is friends.  Then nature.  There are a million things to me between family and wealth.

    I learned that you always have to listen very carefully to hear everything an oil man is telling you.

    Hell, I learned that in the first 2 months of the George Weapons of Mass Destruction Bush administration.

    .

  •  We'll never get off oil (0+ / 0-)

    His concern is the transfer of wealth - which is staggering - plus it goes to some pretty shady places.  

    He wants to keep the money at home and for that, how can one blame him?

  •  Well.....your girl, Nancy (0+ / 0-)

    Pelosi has ALREADY invested!

  •  Getting off foreign oil is a good start (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Uthaclena, liberalconservative

    Pickens is certainly looking out for himself, but in this case, I think his doing that is also congruent with what's good for the country.

    The American foreign oil addiction is perhaps the most corrosive influence on our economy, and the effects of what's already happened will last for decades, if not more than a century.  Pickens is correct when he says it is the largest transfer of wealth in the history of ever.  It just is.

    What he isn't saying, and many people are overlooking is that when that money is spent  it is gone.  It doesn't recycle itself through the econosphere here, where it can create jobs and wealth.  Instead, it creates jobs and wealth in other countries.  This is not good for our country.

    No, natural gas is not a perfectly green source of energy.  It can, however, serve as a transitional resource to buy us time, time to perfect new technologies and them have those technologies achieve economies of scale -- at which point they will make foreign oil and its political necessities a thing of the past.

    In short, Pickens plan is not perfect.  But it is a lot better than the so-called plans already in place.

    •  Who needs a plan? We need an electric car (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trykindness

      Its really that simple

      a viable electric car changes the world instantly.

      •  And the Electricity Comes from...Where? n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        liberalconservative

        "You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists." -Abbie Hoffman

        by Uthaclena on Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 10:08:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  this is pretty simple really (0+ / 0-)

          you can power an electric plant in multiple ways, nuclear, wind, gas, oil, coal - shit you can dam a river and get electricity.

          You can only pour gasoline down the tank of a car.

          make an electric car and change the world.

          •  Okay, Just Wanted to Clarify That Since (0+ / 0-)

            the diary seemed to be mostly oriented to power generation and your comment (which I do agree with) is about its use.

            "You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists." -Abbie Hoffman

            by Uthaclena on Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 10:18:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  no. the diary is not just about power generation (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              A Siegel

              and neither is Pickens....

              part of Pickens' "plan" is precisely to STOP using natural gas in the power generation sector and START using it as transportation fuel (to "get us off foreign oil").

              The commenter above is making the point that THAT natural gas is much more efficiently used in the power sector, and that for much of transportation we can get much more bang for our natural gas by using it to generate electricity and powering electric cars with this, rather than locking ourselves into yet another major fossil fuel infrastructure scheme (natural gas as transportation fuel) where we end up using the natural gas--a limited and more costly by the day fuel, either way--much less efficiently. (But then Pickens doesn't seem all that interested in efficiency.)

              And we make it that much harder to shift the paradigm away from fossil fuels altogether.

              Getting off foreign oil (ie, roughly, getting off oil, period) is important. But it doesn't make any sense to consider this goal in isolation. If Pickens' suggested path away from foreign oil makes matters worse or effectively blocks progress on the transition to a new energy economy, then let's not get suckered.

  •  Boone ? ? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    javelina, imabluemerkin, Poor Grunt

    This is a "dictionery picture" of what an
    "Oil Maggot" looks like.
    T. Boone Pickens.
    T.Boone wants only one thing.
    He wants to keep you hooked on oil
    and other fossil fuels.....forever.
    Well, maybe not forever.  
    Just as long as we can keep selling
    the stuff at an outrageous price.
    The strange part of this is that the
    Houston folks do not want to give up
    their "horse-collar" business.
    Why?  Because Houston wants to remain
    the energy center of America.
    Think "Hydrogen".
    It's our way "out".

  •  If you accept the premise of Peak Oil (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    penguinsong

    Then you would have to appreciate that T.Boone is likely right, we need a bridge and that bridge could at least partly be filled by NG. Look, the guy is 80 years old. It's likely his campaign will cost him more then he will ever make off the deal personally. I think, for once, this guy might be on the level.

    •  I rented the movie (0+ / 0-)

      The End of Suburbia

      The experts think we are at or near peak oil.  the date 2013 is generally considered the latest date for peak oil.

      Once we hit peak oil, the price of gasoline will increase until people are forced to cut back.  This will put an end to the suburban unsustainable lifestyle.  Airplanes will become an extremely costly mode of transport and food will become much more expensive.

      There is really no alternative to oil.  The movie made the claim that there is not all that much natural gas around either.  I am certainly no expert on natural gas or oil, but one does not really need to be an expert to realize many of the ramifications of peak oil.

      •  Well, just a little info for you.... (0+ / 0-)

        Yeah subburbia is going to be a lot less attractive, no doubt. But as was posted here last month, the electrical grid could supply enough to power 42% of our personal transportation fleet. That, combined with our large supply of NG, (some same over 100 year supply  at current levels) we will likely get by.

    •  Please substantiate this (0+ / 0-)

      It's likely his campaign will cost him more then he will ever make off the deal personally.

      Stated number for the campaign is, reportedly, $57 million.

      The business interests that would be affected for T Boone literally are in the $billions to $10s of billions.  

      Accepting his policy concept, hook-line-and-sinker, would increase his profits by $billions.  

  •  Just listen to him (0+ / 0-)

    he says we should drill, drill, drill, every where...NOW.. while we develope alternative enery..(which will take about ten years, maybe longer) the oil will be the "bridge" to tomorrow...in other words..let us drill for oil  (which coincidently won't be on the world market for around ten years, either)  ..so he is really dangling a stick with a carrot in front of your face distracting you..while he puts his hand in your pocket and steals your wallet...once he gets all the tax breaks and subsidies for drilling and (maybe) alternative energy...will he even bother with wind and solar... while there is oil to drill (remember he is a "driller", an oil man) We all ready know he has no problem, lying..after all, he bank rolled the "swift-boaters"

  •  Boone Pickens is not to be trusted. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oregonj, imabluemerkin, SpamNunn

    He stands to make millions off wind and water.  He wants the government to condemn the wind corridor using eminent domain at taxpayer expense, and then he can step in a make the big bucks.   An altruist or environmentalist, he is not.  Also he was a swiftboater.  Check out this site:

    http://junkscience.com/...

    •  I have no problem making money (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      off of alternative energy investment.  Hell, I'm invested in alternative energy myself, so I can't complain about someone else wanting to make money off of it.

      But I also think that Pickens is wrong, partly because of his push for natural gas and further drilling as a bridge to alternative energy, and partly because he promotes technologies that are already in semi-wide use rather than investing in research.

      There are some exciting new developments coming out of the research fields almost daily, like the new catalyst used to produce hydrogen (cobalt rather than platinum) that was announced a few weeks ago.  

      Personally, I think we're a lot closer to producing truly clean energy than almost anybody will admit.  Ten years is not unrealistic if we commit the dollars to research and infrastructure now.  Private industry can do this to some extent, but most of it is going to have to come from government both in terms of dollars and in leadership.

  •  He has a boatload of money invested in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, imabluemerkin

    domestic gas projects and wind generated energy and water distribution systems.   Stranded assets, unless he convinces someone to spend the money and to provide the rights of way to distribute those assets.   It's all self interest.  

    See who has money in these projects, before you support them.  On the surface, these ideas seem appealing, but that's all marketing by T. Boone, that self dealing, crusty old bastard.  

    Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

    by SpamNunn on Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 10:14:46 AM PDT

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