The New Pickens Plan: Scare People With Arabic Ads and Sell Natural Gas

Last Updated Jan 15, 2010 8:00 AM EST

Nothing like an old-timey billionaire's ad campaign -- flush with Arabic script, images of war and an ominous Middle Eastern music track -- to get the xenophobic engine cranking and sell some good ol' U.S. of A. natural gas. The ad campaign drummed up by T. Boone Pickens has been sold as a renewed effort by the Texas energy investor to wean the U.S. off of foreign oil and promote homegrown resources like wind and natural gas.

Pickens has spent upwards of $62 million in the past couple of years on an ad campaign pushing his plan. The aptly named Pickens Plan aims to upgrade the electrical transmission grid; use natural gas -- not oil-based products -- as a transportation fuel; and use wind and solar instead of coal to generate electricity.

Although as I noted Wednesday after Pickens announced plans to ditch his massive Texas wind project, that strategy has shifted a bit. Now natural gas is the go-to fuel, with wind taking a backseat. The ad, which aired on cable networks Thursday, is specifically aimed at beefing up support for the Nat Gas Act, legislation that would, in part, help pay to convert U.S. diesel-powered trucks to natural gas.

Pickens when asked said he and his aides considered, and ultimately chose to use the Arabic because any added attention would be good for the cause, according to the NYT.

"We're infidels with most of these people and they have no use for us," Pickens was quoted by the NYT. "We're getting more and more dependent on the wrong people."
I get it. Pickens was aiming for a reaction with this recent ad. Here I am writing about it, so I guess it worked. But why oh why, risk your credibility by throwing out the Arabic and war images -- especially when your motivates -- as an investor in domestic oil and gas -- will be questioned?

The natural gas industry had gained some momentum in recent months. Let's not forget that it was pretty much left out of the House version of climate-change legislation passed last summer. And I have faith in Americans that the fear-mongering approach won't work, as Pollyannaish as that may sound.

I have to wonder if the natural gas industry folk are cringing over the ad? I am.

See additional BNET coverage of T. Boone Pickens: