Friday, August 15, 2008

T. Boone Pickens: Greenwashing and Rentseeking (CLNE)

From ValleyWag:
Where There's a Drill There's a Way
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....MORE

Mr. Pickens' Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE) priced its IPO at $12.00 in May 2007.
From the New York Post:

...Which brings us to Pelosi's 2007 financial disclosure form. Schedule III lists "Assets and 'Unearned Income' " of $100,001 to $250,000 from Clean Energy Fuels Corp. - Public Common Stock. Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CLNE) is a natural-gas provider founded by T. Boone Pickens, the former oilman turned wind-power evangelist....
...The wind venture, as Pickens himself admits, depends on permanent federal subsidies.

Pickens is banking on 'em. And Pelosi is banking on him. She bought between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of stock in Pickens' CLNE Corp. in May 2007 on the day of the initial public offering:

"She, and other investors, stand to gain a substantial return on their investment if gasoline prices stay high, and municipal, state and even the federal governments start using natural gas as their primary fuel source," reported

CLNE also happens to be the sponsor of Proposition 10, a ballot initiative in Pelosi's home state of California to dole out $10 billion in state and federal funds for renewable-energy incentives - namely, natural gas and wind.

Follow the money. Or, to put it in economist's terms, as energy analyst Kenneth Medlock III did in The Dallas Morning News about the Pickens multibillion-dollar wind-farm investment: "A lot of what he's trying to do is add value to a stranded asset . . . he's obviously got millions of dollars on the line."...

And that, boys and girls, is how it's done in the big leagues.

CLNE was changing hands at $14.00 this morning. A 16.66% return in 15 months isn't huge but compared to the larger market (and considering it is still losing money) it is more than holding its own and is probably one of the Speaker's better investments, having outperformed the S&P 500 by 31 percentage points since the day of the IPO:

Chart for Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CLNE)

Via Yahoo Finance
^GSPC is the S&P 500