Why Are We Letting Fossil-Fuel Billionaire Pickens Write Our Energy Policy and Push for More Dangerous Gas Drilling?
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This weekend, as 10,000 energetic, bright young people converged on Washington, DC, for PowerShift 2011, 82-year-old Texas fossil-fuel-pushing megabillionaire T. Boone Pickens continued his all-out assault on these youths' future.
Pickens has essentially written a bill called the NAT GAS Act (“New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions,” H.R. 1380), to switch fleet vehicles such as buses and interstate trucks to “natural” gas.
Pickens has been working the Hill, White House, airwaves, and editorial boardrooms for some time. He's got buddies like MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan gushing over him and Joe Nocera writing oily op-ed odes to nat gas in the New York Times. And Pickens has somehow managed to sell President Obama and an astonishing number of Congress members on the myth that nat-gas is a homegrown wonder fuel “bridge” from dirty foreign oil to a clean energy future.
Pickens wrote about his “Pickens Plan”: “We have to create American jobs, not OPEC jobs, and not jobs which can be 'off-shored' … The Pickens Plan will enhance the economy, improve the environment and resolve the national security threat caused by our dependence on foreign oil, much of it from OPEC and many other nations who don't have our best interests at heart. I'm for any fuel, as long as it's American … including wind and solar, nuclear, natural gas, and coal.”
Pickens is not the only billionaire pushing this crude on the unsuspecting public. Advertising, sports, media, and bison-burger mogul Ted Turner, 72, who like Pickens is often called an environmentalist by incurious journalists, is driving the nat-gas bulldozer as well.
Picking apart the hype
But “natural” gas is not clean, it's actually quite filthy when extracted via high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking - a relatively new Halliburton-developed process now ravaging many states, most recently the Marcellus shale states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, and threatening New York.
A new non-industry-funded, peer-reviewed study released last week by Cornell University scientist Robert Howarth, coauthored by Anthony Ingraffea and Renee Santoro, shows that the entire process of Marcellus fracking from exploration to delivery is as bad as or worse than coal in its greenhouse gas emissions. (It's no surprise the industry is attacking the study with all its might.)
And fracking is not going to supply us with domestic fuel to replace that scary OPEC (read: Mideast) oil. First of all, much of our oil now comes from our neighbors Canada and Mexico; Saudi Arabia is the third biggest supplier, followed by Venezuela and Nigeria.
Second, you can bet that much of the frack-gas will be shipped overseas, where industry can get a higher price. Corporations' mission is to make money, not to help their country or do the right thing - despite their multimillion-dollar PR and lobbying campaigns' often successful efforts to hoodwink us. So that's just their honchos' idea of good business practice.
Third, there's already a glut of gas here now. By pushing vehicle conversion, Pickens creates a “need” for more drilling.
Which brings us to what I think is the real goal of oil baron and former wildcatter Pickens. He's bought up huge tracts of land that sit on aquifers; in fact he owns more water than just about anyone. He isn't hiding this; it's part of his business plan.
When fracking pollutes your water supply, he'll sell you bottled water.
And his buddy Turner, the second-biggest landowner in the United States and biggest landholder in Patagonia, gains big-time from fracking, too. He has huge ranches in New Mexico. The biggest, nearly 600,000 acres, is being mined for nat-gas, which contributes to his bank vaults. And a 2007 land purchase in Nebraska gives Turner access to the one of the great aquifers of the world, the Ogallala, which underlies eight states. Its primarily fossil water, left from the last glaciation, is being rapidly depleted, but that might not stop a water privatization company from receiving permission to draw from it.