Amid all the hoopla about Barack Obama’s election and its meaning for moves toward a clean-energy future, not many across the nation have paid attention to the set-back that Californians gave T. Boone Pickens. T. Boone had invested nearly $20 million in seeking to con Californians into a roughly $10 billion boondoogle of converting trucking fleets to natural gas. As with the broader Pickens’ Plan, Proposition 10 seems to make some sense on a superficial level but didn’t stand up to any serious scrutiny. While Californian voters sent Proposition 10 to the cleaners, The Pickens’ Plan remains on the national agenda.
One element of The Pickens’ Plan is a sophisticated effort to engage with and influence key national leaders, including those in Congress. When considering that effort, perhaps it is worthwhile to look at potential linkages between those national leaders’ investment portfolios and the implications of The Pickens’ Plan.
One key national leader is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and, well, she has chosen to invest with Pickens to the value of at least $100-250k (note1: as of last financial disclosure but the stock value is perhaps about 40% of that now; and note2: out of a family net worth of roughly $50+ million). This has been public awhile and Nancy responded as follows:
“I’m investing in something I believe in,” Pelosi told Meet the Press host Tom Brokaw. “I believe in natural gas as a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuel.”
Something to note, perhaps Nancy Pelosi does see some issues here. After all, she did not make public comments re Proposition 10 (as of August) even though its passage would financially benefit her family. On the other hand, perhaps not having the investment might have led her to join the legions of organizations and individuals who worked to get Californians to Just Say No to Proposition 10.
Pelosi’s investment isn’t exactly breaking news. After all, the Wall Street Journal covered it back in August.
Without question, T. Boone Pickens is seeking to sell the United States on a bankrupt solution to our core national challenges. Following his plan would divert resources from truly solving problems, moving us (the US) from one fossil-fuel dependency to another. That it will make him $billions and Nancy Pelosi $100,000s (or $millions) is beside the point … perhaps.
Did Nancy Pelosi invest in Clean Energy Fuels since she so sincerely believes in the criticality of natural gas for vehicle transportation? Perhaps, even probably. Is she promoting natural gas for vehicles and fostering T. Boone Pickens’ access to national leaders solely because of her sincere belief that this is a meaningful solution path to the nation’s problems? Perhaps. But, this is troubling on multiple levels.
1. There is a clear connection between Nancy Pelosi’s finances and the success/failure of T. Boone’s schemes. While ‘passable’ under formal ethics rules, that Pelosi has such powerful influence over relevant legislative activity and has fostered T. Boone’s access to Democratic Party leadership creates a very legitimate grounds for suspicion and discomfort. A legitimate question to ask: why aren’t her investments in a blind trust?
3. Putting aside the financial investment, does Nancy Pelosi fundamentally believe that natural gas is a “clean fuel”? Does she not see that this is a discussion of a relative nature. Of course, natural gas is “cleaner” than burning coal or petroleum products. But, while reducing most pollution types (even significantly), natural gas is simply “less dirty”, not clean and switching to natural gas will not solve our global warming challenges.
With Nancy Pelosi fostering T. Boone Pickens access to national leaders (such as speaking to the Democratic caucus); with energy and dealing with Global Warming at the top of the agenda for the Congress; and with The Pickens’ Plan clear efforts to drive leadership in support of their flawed plan, it seems self-evident that Nancy Pelosi’s investments in T. Boone Pickens’ Clean Energy Fuels doesn’t pass the sniff test. Does it?