The Washington Examiner has published an editorial marking some interesting cross-pollination going on between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and billionaire crackpot-turned-climate warrior T. Boone Pickens, whose plan to build wind farms throughout the plains-state corridor has been getting massive airplay and quite a bit of traction among the Washington power class. He's met personally with John McCain and Barack Obama in the last week, and has been pressing the flesh among legislators and other powerful folks since rolling out his platform in July. He makes a reasoned case for public and private investment in renewables (the natural gas-in-cars boondoggle aside) and, it seems, Pelosi has favored the pitch for years:
[I]n May 2007, Pelosi invested between $100,001 and $250,000 to purchase public common stock in Pickens’ Clean Energy Fuels Corporation (CLNE). Pelosi's CLNE investment was first highlighted by Eric Odom on the #don'tgo blog.
CLNE is a cog in Pickens’ $6 billion plan to build a massive wind farm in west Texas and to switch millions of vehicles on American roads from gasoline to natural gas. Pelosi’s CLNE purchase is listed on her most recent congressional personal financial disclosure form, which can be viewed at Opensecrets.org.
A search of Pelosi’s official web site found no announcement of the investment in the Pickens operation. A request to the Speaker’s official spokesman yesterday for information about the investment went unanswered. Coincidentally, Pelosi’s investment came the same month as the House passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, which she hailed as making the Congress over which she helps preside “the most open and honest in history.” There are numerous ways Pelosi could provide assistance to CLNE and Pickens, including helping secure federal tax advantages. Pickens expects at least 15 percent profits on the wind farm and associated initiatives. At CLNE’s $14 per share value, Pelosi appears to own between 7,000 and 17,000 shares.
Maybe I need a larger microscope, but I don't see any actual wrongdoing here--and "helping secure federal tax advantages" for renewables like wind and solar is something Pelosi has supported for ages--and is, in fact a fine idea that would lift all boats in the newer industries, not just CLNE's. I'd call it a smart investment--but I'm not the Speaker of the House. Pelosi, who's also one of the richest members of Congress, should answer to the conflict of interest, and if she does divest from Pickens, should at least draw attention to the market-based approach that will bring these industries to scale.
Adding to the intrigue is this story out of today's NYTimes, in which renewable energy has prompted lawless, There Will Be Blood-type skirmishing over land permits and local rights in upstate New York. Perhaps this calls for revisiting the adage--power corrupts, wind power corrupts...breezily? Read the whole Confessore piece for yourself.