There's nothing I love more than a maverick. By that measure, Boone Pickens has my heart.
Trained geologist, Texas oilman, vintage corporate raider, 21st century billionaire investor and philanthropist, at 82 years old he's going strong. And for the last two and a half years he's been a visible, dynamic force focused on a topic of vital importance to the United States: energy independence.
Like any good maverick, Pickens is not without his detractors. He's championing wind, solar and natural gas power--anything that can be produced domestically gets his nod. He has significant financial interests in wind and natural gas. His wind investments have been start-stop, partly because he's having a hard time lining up the eminent domain rights he needs to fire up transmission. And the environmental impact of natural gas drilling in the United States remains under scrutiny.
But the Pickens Plan, announced during the presidential election cycle in July 2008, is a more comprehensive consideration of the United States' dependence on foreign oil and use of energy overall than anything being put forth by Washington. And it incorporates consideration of China, an increasingly powerful force to be reckoned with in today's energy markets. Pickens frames the issue as one that makes good economic and security sense. He's right.
Energy issues aren't easy, but Pickens is telling us not only that we need to be talking but also we need to be doing. For too long we've been sidestepping and ignoring. Which makes his focus on the issue and commitment of significant time and personal resources to it enormously valuable.
If you want to learn more about Pickens' Plan, you can see his detailed discussion of it on CNBC's Squawk Box the day that he launched it, along with commentary from Morgan Stanley's former chief Investment Strategist Byron Wein here (eight clips total). You can follow the Pickens Plan on Twitter here. And you can follow Boone Pickens personally here.
I love that Pickens uses Twitter. He posts regularly about the plan; Oklahoma State football, where the stadium is named for him; to his wife and kids; and--my favorite--advice, such as "Don't rush the monkey and you'll see a better show.". He's patient. He's also relentless. Like any good maverick.
Photo: Art Streiber