Marketplace Scratch Pad

T. Boone’s new message

Scott Jagow Jan 14, 2010

It’s been pretty difficult to escape Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens the past couple of years. He spent $62 million on an ad campaign that showed up just about everywhere. He called for major investment in wind power to replace natural gas, so that the natural gas could be used to replace oil. His campaign didn’t work so well, so he’s trying a different approach.

Here’s his new commercial, which started running on cable channels today. As you can see, he doesn’t say a thing about wind power. He’s clearly playing on national security concerns while still pushing natural gas to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

More from the New York Times:

His aides hope that a stronger message, focused on national security, will be effective after the attempted Christmas Day airliner bombing and other terrorist actions. They say they discussed whether using the Arabic lettering might be viewed as incendiary or offensive, but concluded that any added attention would be good for the cause…

“We’re infidels with most of these people and they have no use for us,” the 81-year-old oilman said in an interview on the way to a speech here recently. “We’re getting more and more dependent on the wrong people.”

Pickens is spending millions more on the new campaign and plans to tour the country, urging people to lobby Congress for tax incentives. Specifically, he wants the president to convert the entire federal vehicle fleet to natural gas and give tax breaks to companies that use natural gas in their vehicles. Of course, Pickens has personal dogs in this fight. He’s well-invested in both domestic oil and natural gas:

Skeptics say putting in the infrastructure for natural gas vehicles would be too expensive, and battery-powered electric cars and hybrids are a better alternative. And worries are growing that the techniques used to blast through shale rock to release gas could pollute drinking water.

“It’s very hard to move mountains on energy policy, and Pickens has not yet even moved a hill,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at Rice University in Houston. “The problem that Pickens faces is that in this country if you are from the oil industry, people are naturally suspicious of what you say on energy policy.”

This week, Pickens officially shelved his huge Texas windfarm project. Natural gas prices have come down so much, there’s little hunger for wind farms to generate electricity.

You think wind is dead? Or that this push for natural gas will go anywhere?

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