by William Yeatman on November 3, 2008

T Boone Pickens has a simple business plan: convince the government to force Americans to buy his wind power and natural gas, so he can get rich.

Already in Texas, he benefits from a law that requires that Texans get 20% of the electricity from wind power—T Boone’s wind power. He even convinced the State to spend $5 billion in taxpayer money on transmission lines to deliver his wind power to consumers.

In California, he is spending millions on Prop 10, which would mandate that the Golden State use natural gas—T Boone’s natural gas—in public vehicles. If Prop 10 passes, the real windfall for T Boone would be the scores of millions that the State spends on a compressed natural gas (CNG) infrastructure (fuel trucks, fuel stations and the like), which could pave the way towards greater use of CNG—and greater profits for T Boone.

But T Boone’s biggest score is the “Pickens Plan,” his vision to have Congress force all of America to get a fifth of its electricity from wind energy—T Boone’s wind energy—and then forcing Americans to use natural gas—T Boone’s natural gas—to fuel their cars and trucks. T Boone is spending more than $50 million on a public relations campaign for his Plan, but that’s chump change compared to billions his Plan would make him if Congress heeded his wishes.

Obviously, I don’t care for T Boone’s business model. That’s why I derive no small amount of pleasure from an article in the Charlotte Observer that reports T Boone’s mega-wind project (which is being built only because it benefits from mega-mandates and mega-government subsidies) is in big trouble because of the economic crisis. The tough economic environment means that demand for energy is lower, so natural gas prices have dropped, thereby making wind energy even less economically viable that it is already. Financing is also more difficult to obtain, which is bad news for T Boone’s capital intensive wind farms.

As a result, T Boone has scaled back plans significantly.

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