Greenwashing — the practice of gussying up old-fashioned capitalism as newfangled Earth-saving — is an art form. I used to think local greenwashers Pacific Gas & Electric and spam-prone solar shill Steve Westly were the masters. But they look like rank amateurs compared to Oklahoma native T. Boone Pickens. The man is a case study in how to effectively cloak your greed in green. As a result, he's won plaudits, taxpayer money, and eminent domain over private property. The latest example?Pickens and Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon are about to convince California voters to fork over $5 billion in a ballot proposition called the "California Alternative Fuels Initiative." It's really a giveaway to natural gas developers like Pickens and McClendon. Good thing he's sticking to energy, an industry he understands. When last we heard from the iconic corporate raider, he was busy losing piles of money on Yahoo and cursing the company's management. That debacle forgotten, of late he's has been getting more media attention for his role in massive projects under the catchy "Pickens Plan." Part of that plan is California's Proposition 10, due for a vote in November. Pickens and McClendon have spent only $3.7 million so far promoting the $5 billion bond measure, according to the Wall Street Journal. If it passes, that's one heck of a return on investment. The plan will ultimately cost taxpayers $8.9 billion and raise sales taxes with no guarantees that the state will actually see much of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. You'd think environmentalists would have seen through Pickens "reformed oil man" facade, but you'd be wrong: With less than three months until the issue is due for a vote, no formal opposition has emerged. Pickens is a pro at bending state politics to his will. His plan to drill for groundwater in the Texas panhandle and sell it to Dallas residents met with opposition from ecologists and landowners, since it required a 250-mile straw to drink up the Ogallala aquifer's milkshake. So Pickens slapped some wind-turbine generators onto the plan, and with the help of some changes to local laws, managed to place himself at the head of a new water district with the power of eminent domain in order to seize the necessary land across the dusty Texas plains for the pipeline. It's the kind of move that you would think would provoke bipartisan disgust — natural-resource exploitation, to offend the liberals, with the abuse of eminent domain for private gain, to piss off the conservatives. Instead, the longtime Republican who helped swiftboat Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry is winning green points amongst conservatives by promising "energy independence" from foreign oil. And Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D.-San Francisco, is an investor in Pickens's Clean Energy Fuels. As such, she stands to profit from the deal as well, effectively silencing the state and national Democratic Party on the issue Our ten-gallon hats are off to the man for suckering both sides of the aisle into giving him what he wants and the public into thinking he's motivated by anything more than greed. Well played, Mr. Pickens, well played.
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