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Can Pickens’ Plan Swing Sentiment to Obama –- and Cleantech?


By Chris Morrison
VentureBeat
July 8, 2008


When investing, it helps to have people on your side. Usually that means other
business people, and sometimes regulators, but billionaire oilman T. Boone
Pickens is taking the sentiment to a new level with a just-announced public
campaign aimed at bolstering domestic power sources.

The multi-million dollar media and advertising thrust by Pickens will attempt to
swing common opinion away from foreign oil, and toward alternate energy
investments –- which includes wind power, as well as natural gas for
transportation.

Pickens, who made his fortune in oil and private equity, is the man behind plans
for the world’s biggest wind farm, a risky play sizable enough to significantly
multiply or divide even his ample assets. For a big win, he needs the support of
the government to help build supporting infrastructure –- hence the big move.
The idea is intriguing, because although the root of Pickens’ fortune is in oil,
he’s throwing his weight behind renewables. And he’s doing it during an election
year. While John McCain spends most of his time talking about nuclear energy,
which Pickens says will take “too long”, and offshore drilling, Barack Obama
vocally supports all cleantech (including biofuels, which the World Bank appears
ready to blame for sharp increases in the cost of food).

Though Pickens clearly has the most interest in wind, his rhetoric is centered
around weaning the country off oil, which will take solar, biofuels and many
other initiatives – making a clear match of his message with Obama’s.

It should be interesting to see how the energy debate plays out. Pickens isn’t
the only one talking up clean energy. Al Gore’s $300 million awareness campaign
about global warming just got underway, and the rest of the world is spending
more time talking about the issues every day. The claim is that the ad campaigns
are bipartisan, but in the current race, they seem to favor the more progressive
Democrats — whereas Pickens himself has delighted in bedeviling Dems, including
former presidential candidate John Kerry.

Cleantech as an investment sector is still picking up speed – the Cleantech
Group this morning reported another record quarter, with $1.5 billion invested
in green technologies in the United States alone. If Gore, Pickens and others
get their way, there will be another flood of investment at all levels. The only
question is, how high can the tide go?

 

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