“Mr. Pickens was an early exponent of the peak oil theory, which held that the world would soon run out of oil to pump. The rise of fracking, which made hard-to-reach oil accessible, upended the theory.” (Washington Post, below)
“’It’s been valuable to have Boone as part of the team,’ said Carl Pope, who was executive director of the Sierra Club at the time, in response to the oilman’s backing of alternative energy sources. Former Vice President Al Gore also backed Mr. Pickens’s alternative energy campaign.” (New York Times, below)
Business leaders can help or hurt the capitalist system with their actions and rhetoric. Swashbuckling T. Boone Pickens (1928–2019) gained a reputation as a disrupter, shaking up a stodgy oil major (Gulf Oil, now part of Chevron), among others. He championed shareholder rights. But T. Boone had another side, a contra-capitalistic one. He imprudently ran a company into the ground (Mesa Petroleum), forgetting shareholders in the process. He criticized rent-seeking and cronyism early in his career but went on, again and again, to play political cards against the free market.
Multiple MasterResource posts have detailed the multiple energy plans of T. Boone (below), including one I penned earlier this year: T. Boone Picken’s Little Green Deal (remembering a stillborn crony scheme).
He pushed wind power at a time when it had few fossil-fuel-industry friends. Pickens also fought against oil in the transportation market with government-subsidized schemes for natural gas. Ken Lay blazed the trail in splitting the fossil-fuel industry into two and then three (see my Enron Ascending: The Forgotten Years, pp. 46, 339, 343), and Pickens (like Chesapeake’s Aubrey McClendon) took up the cause.
Some excerpts from the September 11, 2019, obituaries follow:
“Oilman Turned Raider Turned Trader.” Laurence Arnold, Bloomberg
“Pickens spent about $100 million since 2008 on his Pickens
Plan, a grassroots campaign that called for building wind farms
and an improved electric grid, offering incentives for energy
efficiency and expanding use of natural gas-powered vehicles.
That created a strange-bedfellows alliance between Pickens and
“‘Here is a man who was my mortal enemy,’ Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said in 2008. ‘He’s my
“Pickens insisted there was nothing discordant in an oilman
seeking less reliance on oil. When it comes to energy, he told
Newsweek, ‘I’m pro-everything….'”
“Along with his investments in oil, Pickens built business
plans on water, wind and natural gas. His plan for a $10
billion, 4,000-megawatt wind farm fell victim to the financial
collapse of 2008 and the declining natural-gas prices that
Texas Oil Tycoon Who Led Legendary Corporate Raids. Chris Power, Washington Post
“T. Boone Pickens, a shrewd, publicity-savvy Texas oil tycoon who helped usher in the era of hostile takeovers and corporate “greenmail” in the 1980s, and who later became an influential voice on environmentally sound energy policy, died Sept. 11 at his home in Dallas.”
“Mr. Pickens was an early exponent of the peak oil theory, which held that the world would soon run out of oil to pump. The rise of fracking, which made hard-to-reach oil accessible, upended the theory.”
“The Pickens Plan called for a massive buildup of wind turbines to provide energy to cities and factories. That would divert the natural gas used by utilities, first to trucks and later to cars, eliminating the need for gasoline. The president of the Sierra Club declared his support of the plan, but other environmentalists pointed out that the conversion costs to natural gas for the nation’s car fleet would be prohibitively high.”
“Oil Magnate and Corporate Raiderr.” Jonathan Kandell, New York Times
“Mr. Pickens also headed a nationwide campaign to push for energy self-sufficiency through the exploitation of natural gas, wind power and solar energy with the aim of reducing the United States’ dependence on oil imports from the Middle East.”
“’It’s been valuable to have Boone as part of the team,’ said Carl Pope, who was executive director of the Sierra Club at the time, in response to the oilman’s backing of alternative energy sources. Former Vice President Al Gore also backed Mr. Pickens’s alternative energy campaign.”
“In June 2007, he announced he would build the world’s largest wind farm, installing huge wind turbines across the Texas Panhandle. By 2011 he had scrapped the project and decided to focus exclusively on natural gas — the energy source that most defined him.”
T. Boone Pickens was a complex personality. His legacy includes giving legitimacy to political energy against consumer-chosen ones, adding to a civil war within the fossil-fuel industry that was started by Ken Lay/Enron in the 1980s and continued with John Browne/BP in the 1990s.
APPENDIX: Posts on T. Boone Pickens
Boone was very brave (with OPM “Other People’s Money”).
He destroyed Mesa Petroleum with a disastrous, highly-leveraged bet on rising natural gas prices.