Two Tales Of Texas Tell Different Stories About Big Oil Page 2

February 17, 2010
T. Boone Pickens with President Barack Obama

T. Boone Pickens with President Barack Obama

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For its part, Texas comes off a little like cigarette manufacturers who insisted for decades that their products were totally fine and that a link between smoking and cancer had never been proven -- a position that ultimately cost the tobacco industry billions upon billions of dollars in fines. No matter where you fall in the climate debate, it's hard to argue that cars don't pollute the atmosphere or that pollution is a good thing. Environmental pollution of all sorts has been linked to a wide range of ills, including cancer, cardiovascular ailments, respiratory problems, and birth defects. True, the state's suit may be successful if its lawyers stick to their anti-global warming rhetoric. However, Texas seems to be delaying the inevitable.

Furthermore, Texas sits outside the auto industry proper. In fact, automakers support the EPA's standards. Without them, manufacturers face regulation by 50 different states, many of which have slightly varying stipulations. Establishing one set of rules by which automakers can develop their vehicles makes sense. So at this point, we're not entirely sure how Texas will argue that it has standing to sue. (Though to be fair, most of us aren't lawyers.)

Pickens argument fails in that he's pushing for natural gas, which, like oil is a non-renewable resource -- one that is expensive to recover, and one that would require a national infrastructure of filling stations to meet demand. He might be better off relaunching his wind farm campaign, which would provide electricity for battery electric vehicles. (True, those require infrastructure developments, too, but the electricity grid is already fairly advanced, compared to that of natural gas.)

Then of course, there's the question of Pickens' sincerity, since the guy made most of his fortune from oil. Who's to say he won't be preaching against natural gas five years down the line if it proves less profitable than he'd hoped? And that's not to mention the mysterious auto company that Pickens is helping to fund: V-Vehicle, which is set to focus on high-efficiency, combustion-engined vehicles -- not BEVs or those that run on natural gas.

In the end, however, the two stories do share some middle ground and point out a couple of important facts that are central to the ongoing energy debate:

(1) energy self-sufficiency is a good thing;

(2) mining our own country for reserves is politically, economically, and strategically important; and

(3) weaning ourselves off oil is going to be a long, slow process.

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