What would you do if you were worth $3 billion? T. Boone Pickens? Propose to build one of the largest wind farms in Texas, of course!
T. Boone Pickens, American financier and Chairman of BP Capital Management, ironically grew his wealth initially through mergers and acquisitions of oil and gas companies. From there, Pickens expanded his company, Mesa Petroleum, to be one of the largest independent oil companies in the world by 1981.
With his continued success came much criticism. During his peak, Pickens has been accused of being a “corporate raider” – investors who essentially direct or execute a hostile takeover of a company, often with the agenda of breaking up and selling various assets of the company to gain large profits. Though most of his attempts at corporate raiding failed, his endeavors drove the targeted company’s stock up, making Pickens and other investors millions of dollars.
So what does the once “most hated man in corporate America” named by Fortune Magazine do with his spare time today? Advocate for less dependency on foreign fuel and more towards renewable natural resources. With this change of heart, of course, comes scrutiny. Criticized as being a hypocrite, Pickens is accused of “morphing from a free-market capitalist into a panhandling socialist when it fits his financial needs.”
Now, Pickens is urging America to quit its addiction to foreign oil, proclaiming it to be the “greatest threat to our economy and to our national security.” Using the latest figures by the Department of Energy, the US has imported 68% of its oil, or nearly $19 billion to foreign countries, and Pickens argues this trend will only continue upward.
His answer to America’s growing need is to look at our natural resources. In comes the Pickens Plan.
The Pickens Plan, costing approximately $10 billion, is a proposal of building the world’s largest wind turbine farm that “will produce 20% of our nation’s electricity while using our abundant domestic natural gas supply as a transportation fuel as well as for power generation.” Pickens spent about $58 million advertising his Plan and bought 667 wind turbines for the project.
However, this past Tuesday, Pickens has announced he has stopped his plans for building the 4,000-megawatt wind farm, citing several reasons including not being able to finance the project in today’s credit market, as well as being unable to build the transmission lines needed.
That, and China beat him to it. Not only does China’s wind project cost one-third less because of lower prices in manufacturing turbines and installation, it is expected to produce five times more power than Pickens’ proposal.
And just like that, the Pickens Plan was blown away. Or has it? Though his plans have been halted for the massive project, Pickens insists he’s committed to putting the wind turbines to good use. Now wanting to build multiple smaller wind farms, Pickens is eying possible locations such as Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and areas in Canada.
Though announced at a time when America really is in need of new alternatives, with growing demands and fluctuating prices for oil, one can’t help but to think: are his intentions genuine?
Greedy capitalist? Or caring environmentalist? You be the judge.