Famed oilman T. Boone Pickens gave the morning keynote at the National Clean Energy Summit, in what might have seemed hostile territory. "I don’t see anyone here from my party," said the longtime Republican and funder of the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry. "I’m making new friends. That’s good." And make friends he did — by the sound of it, the crowd was utterly charmed.
Pickens reeled off the familiar numbers — see PickensPlan.com — about America’s small sliver of world oil reserves (3 percent) and its large appetite for oil (25 percent), which is leading to a growing share of oil being imported (70 percent). "We are getting very close to a disaster," he said. He rehashed his plan to boost wind and move natural gas over to transportation.
He made a point of saying that Al Gore’s plan to move directly to green electricity in 10 years, including transportation, is "unrealistic." We need a bridge to get there, he says, and that bridge is natural gas, which is being discovered in huge shale reserves in Texas and elsewhere.
In an implicit response to concerns about environmental degradation and climate change, he said: "I’m for everything American." (Pickens has been quite vocal in his support for offshore drilling and coal.) The crowd applauded, perhaps not entirely grasping the context.
The only government money needed to get wind built up through the center of the country, he said, is the production tax credit. Both parties say they support it, "so why don’t they pass it?!" (Note: Republicans have blocked bills containing the PTC numerous times in this session of Congress.)
Pickens has withdrawn from active support or involvement in the presidential race. He has discussed energy with both candidates, and both are "equally concerned." He said he wants and expects strong leadership in the first 100 days.
Finally, "if you’ve got a better plan," he said, "tell me what it is. This isn’t about T. Boone Pickens, it isn’t about Democrats and Republicans. This one’s about America."
Pickens took no questions.