Former political enemies join hands to save the world?

May 19, 2010

Nearly six years ago,  Senator John Kerry and Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens were mortal political enemies.

As a major backer of President George W. Bush’s re-election effort in 2004, Pickens contributed millions to a right-wing ad campaign questioning Kerry’s record as a Vietnam war hero. The ads, which Kerry disputed, put him on the defensive and may have contributed to the Democrat’s failure to win the White House.

kerry_pickensOn Wednesday, the billionaire and the Massachusetts senator sat side-by-side in the Capitol’s ornate Senate Foreign Relations Committee room, where Kerry presides as its chairman.

Their mission: To spread the word about the legislation Kerry and Senator Joseph Lieberman have written to tackle global warming by reducing U.S. consumption of dirty-burning fossil fuels blamed for climate change.

“If you look at life looking backwards and standing in one place, you’re going to waste your time,” Kerry told a small group of reporters when asked about the new relationship with the man he now calls “Boone.” “Six years ago was six years ago,” Kerry said.

Both Kerry and Pickens talked about the need to reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil, which the Kerry-Lieberman bill aims to do. Pickens talked in patriotic tones about the need to make America energy independent within 10 years. “I don’t care whether you use natural gas, ethanol, the battery.  You can use anything, just so it’s American,” said Pickens, who turns 82 this week.

Patriotism aside, Pickens stands to gain financially from the climate change bill that Kerry hopes to push through the Senate this year.

His BP (as in “Boone Pickens”) Capital Management firm has bet that natural gas prices will rise as the U.S. turns to cleaner-burning fuels. Kerry’s bill attempts to encourage heavy-duty trucks to switch from diesel gasoline to natural gas and it also provides incentives for natural gas cars. While Pickens said he doesn’t care which alternative energy the United States turns to, he eagerly points out that natural gas is “the only (alternative) fuel that will move an 18-wheeler.”

Will Pickens use his powers of persuasion on Republican senators, who so far are boycotting Kerry’s climate initiative?

“Let me think about it ,” Pickens said. “I don’t know for sure how active I’m going to be on that. No question I know most of the Republican senators and all.”

Kerry wasn’t shy, though, knowing he’s got a tough sales job ahead. “I hope he contacts some.”

Climate legislation pending in Congress also would encourage the development of wind energy, which Pickens also is investing in. “We have the best wind in the world,” boasted Pickens.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (Sen. John Kerry (L) with financier T. Boone Pickens at the U.S. Capitol)

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