In the last two and a half years, Texas billionaire oil man-turned domestic energy policy troubadour, T. Boone Pickens, has spent $80 million of his own money promoting his plan to ween the U.S. off foreign (OPEC) oil. And in that time, we have gotten no closer to reaching that goal. Appearing on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night, Pickens reiterated his plan to remake the U.S. transportation fuel infrastructure, albeit, with much less focus on wind energy than there used to be.
As he often will do, host Jon Stewart gave an extended interview to Pickens, giving him a chance to expand on the plan, answer his critics, and even engage in a little audience participation. One theme that Stewart repeatedly turned to is the question that if there are so many upsides and so few downsides, why haven't we already switched our trucks and buses to run on natural gas?
As someone who has watched this plan from the get-go, I genuinely want to get behind it. But when Pickens repeats the rote oil industry response to the critique of hydraulic fracturing, I've got say I'm a little disappointed. Regardless of the number of times wells have been "successfully fracked" without causing long-term harm to local ecosystems or aquifers, why can't oil and gas industry people publicly accept that there is some risk in hydraulic fracturing? Ranging from trucks spilling fracking fluid into streams and the mismanagement of produced water to poorly cemented wells, there certainly are instances where fracking can be dangerous.
Strategically, rather than denying existence of all danger, it seems like Boone Pickens, et. al., might curry more favor with people like me who see a place for natural gas in our transportation infrastructure, if they admit there are some instances where water has been fouled, fish have been killed, and animals have been sickened by something related to the hydraulic fracturing process. Owning the mistakes would be a lot better than running from them.