The Public Choice Economics of T. Boone Pickens


Via blogger, writer, and critic extraordinaire Alan Vanneman comes this bit from Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum on T. Boone Pickens and the Texas bazillionaire's newfound enthusiasm for wind power (not to be confused with Psi Power, the vastly more interesting ability, at least according to the environmentally unconscious band Hawkwind, to "read your mind like a magazine"):

Pickens wants to build his electricity transmission facilities on a strip of land 250 feet wide and 250 miles long that starts at his farm in Roberts County, Texas, and terminates in Dallas. Why that particular strip? Because Pickens has been buying up massive water rights from the Ogallala Aquifer and he wants to pipe that water to Dallas at huge profit. Unfortunately, pipeline right-of-way is pretty hard to acquire, so Pickens figured out a way to get some help: he formed a little water district headed by his wife and a friend and then convinced the Texas legislature that water plus wind electricity was a good reason to use its power of eminent domain to hand over the land to him for a song. Wind power wasn't really the motivation for this land snatch, it was just a sweetener for a water deal.

Clever—and typically Texan, no? Still, why not just sell the electricity? Why the natural gas switcheroo [part of Pickens' plan is to fuel cars with natural gas after making conventional gas stations friendly to the new energy]? Turns out Pickens has a vested interest there too:

Along with being the country's biggest wind power developer, Pickens owns Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a natural gas fueling station company that is the sole backer of the stealthy Proposition 10 on California's November ballot.

Prop. 10 would kick $5 billion in public money toward incentives to switch toward alternative fuels for trucks and automobilies, the likely biggest winner being natural gas.

More here.

As reason's Ron Bailey has pointed out, Pickens has rarely met a subsidy he didn't like, as long as he was on the gettin' end.

The larger lesson? Always check ostensibly environmentally friendly plans for hidden agendas, regardless of who is pushing the plan, whether it's Al Gore or T. Boone Pickens or Jack London, for that matter.