Pathetic Pickens Plan

 Posted by on 28 July 2008 at 12:02 am  Economics, Politics
Jul 282008

T. Boone Pickens is all over the airwaves and internet with his “Pickens Plan” to develop wind power (can anyone say “public relations campaign?). You’d think that a billionaire couldn’t get that way without knowing some basic things about economics, but you’d never know it by reading the Pickens Plan. Maybe Pickens is more mixed-economy pull-peddler than straight-up capitalist and that’s how he made his bucks. Can’t say I know too much about him, he’s never impinged on my consciousness before the Pickens Plan hit the airwaves. Hope I forget about him soon.

In essence, the main reason we’re supposed to give the Pickens Plan the time of day is because: buying foreign oil is a massive “transfer of wealth” that will impoverish and endanger us. Featured prominently in his TV and web messaging is his complaint that the U.S. is going to spend $700 billion on foriegn oil this year.

To address point-by-point the third-rate argumentation and simplistic reasoning of the Pickens Plan would be shooting fish in a barrel and I’m not going to bother. His method is to pander to the xenophobia, economic ignorance, and intellectual laziness in the worst of his audience. I do, however, want to take a moment to blow off some steam about the economic argument he makes, which I find most offensive coming from a freaking billionaire.

Here’s the pitch on the Pickens Plan website:

It’s an addiction that threatens our economy, our environment and our national security. It touches every part of our daily lives and ties our hands as a nation and a people.

The addiction has worsened for decades and now it’s reached a point of crisis.

In 1970, we imported 24% of our oil. Today it’s nearly 70% and growing.

As imports grow and world prices rise, the amount of money we send to foreign nations every year is soaring. At current oil prices, we will send $700 billion dollars out of the country this year alone — that’s four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.

Projected over the next 10 years the cost will be $10 trillion — it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.

Alex Epstein at ARI has a great column on “oil addiction” and what our real national security issues are, so I’ll let him handle that one. I want to give T. Boone a little lesson in Econ 101 to address this “transfer of wealth” nonsense he’s got his panties in a bunch over.

Have you ever heard of division of labor, Mr. Billionaire Pickens? You know, that neat little arrangement where people produce what they’re best at producing, and then trade their goodies with each other? That economic principle that makes possible our elevated standard of living? That mode of production the opposite of which is a life of squalor on a self-sufficient farm? No? Well, here’s a little tutorial. We buy foreign oil because foreigners produce it more cheaply than we can domestically. And we buy it with the money we earn by producing the things we can most cheaply and efficiently produce. Now, we can get into the weeds over why this is the case, but as long as it’s the case, it’s completely rational to buy foreign oil. The consequences of going through a withdrawal from this “addiction” would be: getting on an express train to a 19th century standard of living. (A train fueled with coal, by the way.) Capice?

Oh, and can I offer you a little help finding that $700 billion you’re acting like we’ve irretrievably lost? Here’s a hint: we actually bought a product with that $700 billion, it’s called oil. I suppose that if it were better for us, we could buy the oil and then turn right around and sell it again — then we’d get our $700 billion back and all would be well, eh? Of course, then there’d be the little detail that we wouldn’t be able to get to work in the morning, or fly our airplanes, or power our factories . . . but we’d have that $700 billion. For what it would be worth, under those circumstances.

Bottom line here, T. Boone — wealth isn’t money, wealth is what you buy with money. Wealth directly supports our lives, but money is just paper. Ever try to eat money, or get your car to run on the paper money is made of? Even if money were gold coins, there is literally nothing in gold that can keep body and soul together. Unless those foreigners themselves turn around and buy some actual products with their money, the wealth transfer will all be from the foreigners to us — we’ll have oil, and they’ll have a bunch of paper. And who knows? Maybe those foreigners will use that $700 billion to buy from the United States some of that wealth they need to survive. Ya think? (Sheesh.)

Pickens is pushing wind power as an alternative. I’ll leave it to someone else to address the technical details of why it’s not feasible. Why? Because I don’t have to address those details. If wind power were a viable alternative, potentially a real value in our real every day lives, you can bet that selfish, profit-seeking entrepreneurs would have been all over it by now, confident that people would buy it. And they’d put the research dollars into it — look at the hundreds of millions drug companies will spend developing a drug, confident of future sales. Maybe one day wind power will be a viable alternative, but at present it just isn’t a money-making enterprise, or T. Boone wouldn’t have any trouble privately raising the money needed to develop it.

So you know what? I don’t think the Pickens Plan is a plan to “save America.” I think it’s a plan to extort $1.2 trillion tax dollars from hard-working American citizens to fund schemes T. Boone can’t persuade people to voluntarily support, by scaring them half to death with horror stories of impoverishment at the hands of evil foreigners.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha