Friday, April 27, 2012

Would Jed Clampett Prosper in 2030 America?

I have decided that today’s post will be less serious and more fun that my previous posts to this blog. I realize that I may still bore some of you to tears, but such is the natural effect of enduring three years of law school and nearly five years as a practicing lawyer.  We’re not a very exciting bunch, folks!  Nevertheless, what follows is my futile attempt to entertain my readers a little while also posing a serious question:

From the category of art imitating life, I was on my way into work yesterday morning when I heard on the radio that Forbes had released its annual list of the fifteen wealthiest fictional characters.  This peaked my curiosity, so when I arrived at work I went to to find the story, which can be accessed via the following hyperlinks: (Print Article) or (Character Bios).  One thing that struck me about the Fictional Fifteen was that four of the characters who made the list for 2012 have some connection to the energy and/or mining and/or natural resources and/or extractive industries.  Flintheart Goldheart, Scrooge McDuck’s arch nemesis in Disney cartoons, made his fortune in the cut-throat diamond mining industry and comes in at #2 on the list.  Carlisle Cullen, the patriarchal vampire in Twilight and #3 on the list, made his fortune in, well, being alive a really long time.  But his wealth is primarily attributed to the savvy investments made during his 371 years on earth.  The 2011 version of the “Fictional Fifteen” reveals that among Mr. Cullen’s primary investments are oil, steel, and gold (  Appearing at #13 on the 2012 list is C. Montgomery Burns, owner of the nuclear power plant on the Simpsons who once blocked the sun in Springfield to increase electricity consumption (Let’s all take a moment to be thankful that Mr. Burns isn’t the CEO of AEP!). 

Jed Clampett, who is the wealthiest energy tycoon on the 2012 list at #4, is synonymous with “Big Oil.”  We all know the story from the Ballad of Jed Clampett:

Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jed
Poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed
Then one day he was shooting for some food,
And up through the ground come a bubbling crude
(Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea)

After Mr. Clampett struck oil on his property in the Ozark Mountains while hunting in the early 1960s, the OK Oil Company paid him a fortune to acquire drilling rights on his property.  He subsequently moved to Beverly Hills and has amassed a fortune of $9.8 Billion according to Forbes, primarily from his oil company, Clampett Oil.  Mr. Clampett might have been higher on the 2012 Fictional Fifteen had it not been for a disaster, reported by Forbes, in which one of his oil tankers accidentally spilled 20,000 barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Alaska.  This mishap no doubt made his fictional lawyer Ben Matlock ridiculously wealthy, but it surely also negatively affected the price of Clampett Oil stock. 

On a more serious note, Forbes’ Fictional Fifteen begs an increasingly important question in the energy industry.  Would Jed Clampett prosper in the America of, say, 2030?  Remember that The Beverly Hillbillies was set in the 1960s, in the middle of Big Oil's rise to the top and at a time when it really had no challengers and everyone was driving a gas-guzzling car.  Although the oil and gas industry seems to be flourishing at the moment, particularly with drilling in the Marcellus and other shale formations, there is no doubt that America’s energy policy has become decidedly “pro-green” and “anti-fossil fuels.”  New restrictive regulations are seemingly being promulgated every day, which many would say negatively affect the coal, oil, and gas industries.  Huge investments and immense effort have been put into finding alternative, renewable sources of energy that are perceived to be cleaner technologies than fossil fuels.  (Coincidentally, Forbes reports that Thurston Howell of Gilligan fame, who according to Forbes makes his money from developing green technologies such as bicycle-powered washing machines and coconut cell phones, increased his company’s profits by 7%, but dropped off the list of this year’s Fantastic Fifteen, due to bank fraud, after making the 2011 list at #9.). 

It seems that a war is currently being waged over what technologies will power America into its future.  Will it be Mr. Burns’ nuclear power? Will it be Mr. Howell’s green technologies?  Or will it be Mr. Clampett’s “Big Oil”?  Only time will tell what the future holds for the coal, oil, and gas industries, but this author’s opinion is that there is no reason why America cannot develop a balanced energy policy that utilizes both domestic sources of energy like coal, oil, and clean-burning natural gas along with renewable and green sources of energy to achieve both energy independence and a cleaner environment.    

The full list of Forbes’ Fictional Fifteen is reproduced below with the character’s net worth, primary sources of revenue, and the fictional work from which they were created:

Character                            Net Worth              Primary Revenue Source          Fictional Work

1. Smaug                                 $62B                   Marauding                           “The Hobbit”

2.  Flintheart Glomgold          $51.9B                 Mining, Theft                      “Scrooge McDuck”

3.  Carlisle Cullen                    $36.3B               Investments                         “Twilight”

4.  Jed Clampett                      $9.8B                  Oil and Gas                         “Beverly Hillbillies”

5.  Tony Stark                         $9.3B                  Defense                               “Ironman”

6.  Richie Rich                       $8.9B                  Conglomerates                    “Ritchie Rich”

7.  Charles Foster Kane           $8.3B                  Media                                  “Citizen Kane”

8.  Bruce Wayne                     $6.9B                  Defense                               “Batman”

9.  Forrest Gump                     $5.7B                  Apple Inc.                           “Forrest Gump”

10.  Mr. Monopoly                  $2.5B                 Real Estate                           “Monopoly”

11. Lisbeth                               $2.4B                Computer Hacking               “Girl With   Salander                                                                                                          Dragon Tattoo”

12.  Tywin Lannister               $2.1B                  Inheritance                          “Game of Thrones”

13.  C. Montgomery Burns      $1.3B                   Energy                                 “Simpsons”

14.  Robert Crawley               $1.1B                  Inheritance/                           “Downton Abbey”

15.  Jo Bennett                        $1.0B                  Electronics/                          “The Office”

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