National Press Club

Pickens Promotes Wind Energy; Offers Tentative Support for Wall St. Bailout

September 23, 2008 | By Ken Dalecki

Energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens will be turning up the heat on presidential candidates Barrack Obama and John McCain to fashion a detailed energy plan before the November election aimed at reducing the nation’s dependence of imported oil.

Pickens told a National Press Club luncheon audience Monday, Sept. 22, that the media in past elections failed to press candidates for details when they promised to reduce the nation’s energy dependence. He said candidates never developed concrete plans and the nation’s dependence has only grown worse.

That will change this year if Pickens gets his way.

He told a sold-out audience that he has met with both Obama and McCain to “educate” them on energy issues and press for comprehensive energy plans for voters to judge before the election.

He called the energy issue “a problem as big as the financial problem” and one that will only get worse if government officials do not show leadership. He called the $700 billion sent overseas by the U.S. each year to buy oil “a ticking time bomb.”

Pickens, who is pushing for the development of wind farms in the “wind corridor” east of the Rockies from Mexico to Canada, said the nation cannot afford to send billions of dollars abroad each year to buy some 70% of the oil it consumes from such unstable regions as the Mideast and Africa.

The multi-billionaire oilman and takeover expert has his own energy plan which he said he is promoting for the good of the country, not his personal wealth. “I’m 80 years old and not in it for profit,” he said. “I have all the money I need.”

Although he has been a strong supporter of GOP candidates in the past, Pickens said he will remain neutral this year, a pledge that has gained him access to Democrat leaders as well as Republicans.

He is trying to influence both candidates in developing a comprehensive energy plan and will begin airing commercials to turn up the heat in both camps to advance a proposal. He said that until now neither candidate has shown much real understanding of the energy problem or advanced viable solutions.

For his part, Pickens is urging the development of natural gas as the “bridge fuel” that will get the nation from its dependence on oil to electricity from such sources as nuclear, biofuel, wind, thermal and other domestic energy sources in the next 20 to 30 years.

He said the nation has plenty of relatively cheap and clean natural gas that could replace much of its oil usage if natural gas is used in place of gasoline and diesel fuel to power cars, trucks and other vehicles. He said the switch to natural gas can be done with today’s technology. “I’m too old for R&D,” he joked. Pickens is 80.

Pickens predicted that unless the nation addresses the energy problem, the U.S. will be sending $2 trillion a year abroad for oil in 10 years and that oil will cost $300 a barrel.

“That is unsustainable,” he said. He said adoption of his “Pickens Plan” would help reduce the nation’s importation of foreign oil by 30% in 10 years.

He said McCain is overly optimistic about the role nuclear power can play and that Obama fails to realize that adding 1 million electric cars to the nation’s roads by 2015 is a pittance in a nation with 250 million vehicles.

Pickens said the U.S. needs to develop all sources of domestic energy, not just increase oil production. “We can’t drill our way out of this crisis,” he said.

Asked to comment on the nation’s credit crisis and bailout plans for failing financial institutions, Pickens quipped that Washington is “privatizing profit and socializing risk.”

Nevertheless, he called Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke “smart guys” whom he is “willing to go along with” based on what he knows.

He suggested that investor Warren Buffett be put in charge of managing the assets of bankrupt entities taken over by the government to protect the taxpayers’ interest and possibly bring a positive return on their investment.