Saturday, July 19, 2008

Curiouser and curiouser

T. Boone Pickens has been a fixture in Texas bidness for as long as I can remember. He's a well known hard-nosed oilman from way back. He's also, of course, one of the guys who financed the swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004 and famously offered $1 million to anybody who could prove their lies were in fact -- um -- lies.

But of late, Pickens has turned into a political independent and an odd sort of bidnessman/environmentalist -- one guided by finance, not concern for the natural world. Check this out. Because the US uses 25% of the world's oil and imports approxiately 70% of what it consumes, Pickens reasons that the country is fixin' to really screw the economic pooch. He estimates that oil imports cost us $700 billion a year.

The answer, Pickens says is wind power. Since burning natural gas contributes to generating about 20% of current electric power nationally, replacing the gas with wind will free up that gas (much of it domestically produced) for fuelling cars. And he's begun building a 4,000 megawatt wind farm up in the Texas panhandle. It'll cost billions, and he's convinced he'll make a profit on the enterprise.

The man is not a tree-hugger. Environmentalism moves him not.

He's also buying up water rights in the already strapped Ogallala Aquifer up in the Panhandle, too. In fact, Pickens owns more water than any other American. And he'll make a killing on it, too. The suburban sprawl surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth is a huge consumer of water, and the local supply is at its limit. Lots of grassy lawns need lots of sprinklers which need lots of water. Never mind that suburbia's water use patterns are indefensible and unsustainable, he's gonna have lots of water to sell the suckers.

Pickens' aggressive move into the water market represents a shrewd bidness maneuver. As water gets less abundant, the price will rise. At a price tag of $100 million, it's a classic buy-low-sell-high trick.

He's betting the same with his wind farm.

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