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T. Boone Pickens calls for wind energy, natural gas

24 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Thursday, April 9, 2009

T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oilman turned clean-energy maven, sounded the clarion call of U.S. energy independence on Thursday in San Diego, while speaking before a group of business leaders. “We have to get off foreign oil,” he said. “We have got to get our own resources.” Pickens spoke before 477 members of the San Diego Rotary Club 33, at the Sheraton Hotel Harbor Island. He was here to promote The Pickens Plan, his multi-faceted effort to develop wind, solar and natural gas sources in the U.S., as well as his New York Times best-seller, “The First Billion is the Hardest.” The billionaire has invested $150 million in clean energy industries, an amount that will reach $2 billion by 2011, he said. His companies include BP Capital Management, a fund group; Clean Energy, a publicly-listed natural gas company; and other companies, which use groundwater and wind energy. A staunch Republican, Pickens spoke of how he has spent time in recent months discussing clean energy with President Obama, Al Gore, and even Sierra Club leader Carl Pope. “It has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “I just want to solve this problem.” The billionaire noted that several points of his plan were included in Obama’s stimulus package – including funding a smart grid, wind and solar energy. Speaking of Obama, “I think his plan is our plan,” said Pickens. Pickens also met with Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Henry Waxman. “Twenty minutes with that crowd is a long time,” he said, to laughter. Then Pickens explained that it was hard to nail down so much time with them, but they ended speaking for one-and-one-half hours. Pickens offered advice about the pending Climate Bill and Energy Bill, which he hopes will be passed by August.

The oil magnate publicly launched his plan in July 2008, months after it fell on deaf ears with former President Bush. Pickens spent $60 million of his own funds on a widespread television and Internet campaign, and met with both John McCain and Obama during that time. He wanted it to be at the forefront of public attention during the elections, he said, because by buying oil from Middle Eastern coutnries, “we are paying for both sides of the war.”

The maverick has garnered serious support for The Pickens Plan. Some 1.5 million people have signed up as members, including 47,000 from California, he said. Member organizations include the Sierra Club and AT&T, which committed to converting 84,000, or 10 percent, of its vehicles to natural gas after hearing him speak. Having delved deeply into U.S. energy issues, Pickens strongly urged moving away from foreign dependence of any kind.

He said that both John McCain and Obama had thought during last year’s campaign the key issue for alternative energy was battery efficiency. But since the Chinese are market leaders in batteries, this would only shift the dependence to another country, he said. “We (don’t want to) get off Saudi oil and get on Chinese batteries.”

Instead, wind, solar, natural gas and shale would allow America to achieve energy independence, he said. Pickens plans to build the largest wind farm in the U.S., based in Texas, as part of a wind corridor running down the midwest and southern states. He is also tapping natural gas, which he said is cheap, clean and abundant.

The hale 80-year-old rattled off numbers that painted a picture of unsustainable oil dependence. If present consumption levels continue, the U.S. will import $10 trillion of foreign oil in ten years, he noted.

Oil barrel prices of $147 a barrel would cost the U.S. $3.2 trillion dollars, lower prices of $75 a barrel will increase global demand that would push prices back up. Since the U.S. uses 25 percent of the world’s oil, the prices will be exorbitant, he said. “If we don’t get it solved, we’re going to pay a horrible price for it,” he said.

Pickens’ San Diego connection
Pickens is married to Madeleine, a San Diego businesswoman and former widow of Allen Paulson, an aerospace multimillionaire and founder of the Del Mar Country Club. Pickens and Madeleine married in 2005.

Energy facts
The U.S. imports 70 percent of its oil, most of it from countries hostile to the U.S. Wind energy has the capacity to supply 30 percent of the country’s energy needs by 2030. Natural gas vehicles could cut foreign gasoline use by one-third, or more than $230 billion annually.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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