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Prudence, Pickens style

Kristi Haas | Thursday, October 29, 2009

At Monday’s event featuring energy executive T. Boone Pickens, I expected a constructive discussion of his plan for energy policy, wind, and natural gas. I overestimated. What I found completely lacked argumentative structure and, worse, encouraged people to endorse a mysterious policy out of self-interested hate. Among Mr. Pickens’ main topics: (1) T. Boone Pickens has money and famous friends. (2) Anything American is inherently good (except that which doesn’t bring profit, like national parks and the interests of poor people). (3) Natural gas is located within U.S. borders. Therefore, it is inherently good (and inherently accessible to Mr. Pickens’ companies). It’s the best way to stop buying oil from The Enemy (and start buying from Pickens). Why didn’t Pickens actually explain his policy plan?

I’m all for seriously rethinking our energy policy, but taking Mr. Pickens’ policy advice is a lot like agreeing with a Notre Dame raccoon who recommends that the dumpsters should have doggie-doors installed, so the little raccoon can get to the profits — er, dinner. Unlike Mr. Pickens, though, our raccoon doesn’t usually dehumanize people who happened to be born in the Middle East by referring to them as, collectively, the “enemy” and “people who hate us.” The worst part of this event was the applause at Mr. Pickens’ point that if energy-saving batteries are Chinese and not American, then batteries do not belong in a U.S. policy solution. I can only repeat this idea in order to beg the clappers to consider what they were applauding: Mr. Pickens’ prudence in appealing to fear on behalf of his own bank account? His fortitude in grossly oversimplifying our energy and foreign trade problems in front of a bunch of smart Notre Dame people? Or his faith, hope, and love for the god we call America, no matter what?

On second thought, the worst part was that the Office of the Provost co-sponsored this “lecture.” So much for our pursuit of truth through inquiry enriched by Catholicism’s intellectual and cultural resources.

Kristi Haas
off campus
Oct. 28