Maybe you've seen T. Boone Pickens' commercial by now. The corporate takeover artist and hedge fund chairman is in the process of building the world's largest wind farm. He's also the nation's largest supplier of transportation-related natural gas.
Imagine Pickens' surprise when he discovered that our environmental and economic salvation is to use subsidized wind power to replace the natural gas we now use to generate electricity, and then to use that freed-up natural gas to power our cars. We could use new wind power to replace dirty coal instead. But that's not the plan.
All commercials are trying to sell us something. But Pickens' ad isn't aimed at us the consumers, but at voters sadly under-informed and easily stirred by appeals to emotion. The Pickens Plan is not about offering you, the consumer, a choice.
If wind power were more efficient than the alternatives, we'd already be using more of it. If natural gas cars were attractive to consumers, we'd already be driving more of them. The Pickens plan is about getting the government to use its powers to tax, regulate, and subsidize -- and pick winners in the energy sector.
When Pickens says:
T. Boone Pickens: Over $700 billion are leaving this country to foreign nations every year.
and adds up to:
Pickens: It'll be the largest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.
He's leaning hard on our worst nationalist impulses and attacking the very idea of peaceful, mutually beneficial trade. Listening to Pickens, you'd never know we got something for all that money. What he's really saying is: Why buy the things you need from dangerous foreigners when you could be buying them from rock-ribbed Americans, like T. Boone Pickens?
In the end, The Pickens' plan is that government use its powers to make Pickens the winner. Don't help him. The last time Pickens spent millions on political ads, the Swift Boat Veterans offered us, the voters, their version of the truth. How do you like how that turned out?
Will Wilkinson discusses T. Boone Pickens' energy plan on Marketplace (July 16, 2008) [MP3]