T. Boone Pickens: I've lost my a** in wind power

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, oil magnate T. Boone Pickens boasted of his oil, gas, wind and solar bona fides — and accused the president of not just having a poor national energy policy, but of having no national energy policy at all (h/t NewsBusters).

Co-host Mika Brzezinski said that domestic oil production is up, and asked her guest what the Obama administration has done that is good concerning energy.

“Well, they don’t have an energy policy,” answered Pickens. Brzezinski followed by asking if Obama has done anything to increase oil production. He replied, “It has nothing to do with the administration…We’ve gotten someplace, but it’s because of technology advanced by the industry.”

“What’s getting ready to happen to you,” offered Pickens, “the horizontal drilling and the multiple frack zones in it, that’s all going, it’s going to be exported away from America. Is that bad? No, it’s not bad. It’s an industry developed here, share with other people, develop reserves.”

“Let me tell you,” Pickens continued, “you are looking at a fundamental change in energy globally is what you have. The OPEC nations are going to have the power taken away from them that they’ve enjoyed for the last twenty years.”

Pickens also said he couldn’t think of a single time in the last 40 years when government truly facilitated energy production and said he knows not to expect the advancement of any kind of coherent policy before the election because “Obama’s hands are tied.” “The greenies and the Left” would punish Obama for any defection, for any kind of support (or at least lack of punishment) for oil and gas production, even though “the jobs are in the oil and natural gas industry.”

It was unclear precisely what policy Pickens was promoting, but, for all that he’s arguably invested more than anyone else in renewable energy, he made it clear he doesn’t think the time to transition to wind and solar is now:

“I’m in the wind business … I’ve lost my ass in the business.”

Host Joe Scarborough said laughing, “You’ve invested more in alternative energy than anybody else.”

“Exactly,” replied Pickens. “My issue is not political. I mean, this is an opportunity for America to advance, get on the back of cheap energy and recover your economy. It can be done, but we have no plan.”

Pickens continued, “Obama needs to go in, study it, look at it, and decide what an energy plan is, and then go forward with it. He needs to explain to his people, ‘Hey, we can get on everything green. We can get on everything renewable. Then the cost of power will go up ten times.’ So be careful when you start fooling with it. Know what you’re working with.”

With that last comment, Pickens hit the nail on the head: At some point, the president and all those responsible for the nation’s energy policies have to decide whether affordability or renewability should take priority. Private companies can and should be investing in renewable energy, but government shouldn’t be propping them up — and government certainly shouldn’t be trying to force a transition to fuels that are presently economically unviable.

Given the abundance of clean, affordable natural gas, the idea that we have to choose between “dirty” fossil fuels and “clean” renewables is obsolete. The choice is actually between a clean, affordable fossil fuel and clean, but expensive renewables. Once we recognize natural gas as the ideal bridge fuel, we’ll then have a choice between a government-based or market-based method of incentivizing the transition. That’s where Pickens and I depart: He’s fine with subsidies for natural gas, whereas I think the market will eventually take care of the transition itself.