After eight years trying to convince Dallas that it could only keep watering its lawns in a drought if it would pipe in water from West Texas, everyone’s favorite billionaire T. Boone Pickens has officially put his water pipe dream on the back burner. Instead, Pickens is focusing on his Plan, which calls for a combination of wind and natural gas, hoping that an increase in energy generated by the former will free up the latter for natural-gas-fueled cars. In recent weeks, he has spent $58 million on ads touting wind power and been photographed shaking hands with every Democrat in the country (much to the chagrin of Fox News).
In the late ’90s, Pickens took advantage of a uniquely Texan law that allows the state’s residents to buy up underground water rights — whether they own the land on top or not. He bought up enough water rights to establish his little corner of the Ogallala Aquifer as a fresh water district, which would have allowed him to invoke eminent domain in order to build a giant water pipeline from West Texas to Dallas.
Pursuing the same right-of-way he had hoped to use for water, and opting not to wait for his state to set up transmission lines, Pickens plans to transmit electricity from a 4,000 MW windfarm on his 65,000-acre ranch to the rest of Texas by 2011. But while the pipeline may be on hold indefinitely, Pickens still owns more water rights than any other U.S. citizen and one day someone is going to buy that water. A Pickens spokesman told the Associated Press that “discussions with potential buyers of the water from the Ogallala Aquifer continue,” although those discussions were unlikely to generate a deal in the near term.
In the meantime, his greatest potential profits now lie in the passage of Proposition 10, which would provide over $2 billion to fund massive incentives for natural-gas-fueled vehicles and the infrastructure necessary to get natural gas at the pumps. In addition to the water announcement earlier this week, Pickens’ wife quietly sold off a million shares of Clean Energy Fuels, his natural gas company, leaving some to speculate that it might be the next Pickens project put on hold.