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pickens plan, to save oil

Boone Pickens has a plan to solve the country’s $700 billion-a-year dependence on foreign oil.

Replace gasoline with natural gas. Replace natural gas-fired power plants with wind, solar, nuclear and clean coal. Basically, replace foreign oil with domestic fuel without straining those resources.”We’ve gotten ourselves in a trap,” Pickens said last week in an interview in his Dallas office. “The problem is, we said, ‘Send us the oil, and never mind the cost.’ “

“Things were fine until the price went vertical on us,” said Pickens, who calculates that, at $140 a barrel for crude, Americans spend $700 billion a year on 5 billion barrels of oil from foreign countries. That amounted to about 65 percent of total U.S. supply last year.

Pickens kicked off a media campaign today to promote his energy policy ideas — which align perfectly with his business investments. He’ll spend tens of millions of dollars on television and Web advertising and will make talk show appearances along the way.

He aims to make energy a central issue in the presidential election. He’ll challenge the candidates to go beyond pandering on gasoline prices to create real energy plans.

“I feel like I’m going into a huge arena and tapping on the glass and asking people to listen,” said the 80-year-old multibillionaire.

Would the Pickens plan work?

Some of the smartest energy analysts in the country say the U.S. cannot stop importing fuel.

Besides, cutting oil imports wouldn’t necessarily reduce the price of oil, if Americans just replace it with domestic oil. Nor would switching to natural gas reduce our dependence on foreign fuel if the U.S. begins importing more liquefied natural gas.

Still, shifting to natural gas vehicles could cut transportation costs because natural gas costs less per British thermal unit than oil does. And moving to more renewable energy and nuclear power could reduce electricity prices and cut pollution. High natural gas markets have boosted power prices, particularly in Texas.

“His idea has some merit,” said Bruce Bullock, director of Southern Methodist University’s Maguire Energy Institute. “I give him all the credit in the world for putting something out there. That’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that will pull us out of this.”

Of course, there are hurdles, Bullock said. They include building the infrastructure to dispense natural gas as a vehicle fuel, building new power plants to replace natural gas-fired plants, overcoming possible opposition from oil companies and politicians.

Rayola Dougher, an economist for oil lobby group American Petroleum Institute, didn’t immediately jump on board the Pickens plan.

“It sounds a little gimmicky to me,” she said. But she hopes the plan pushes politicians to open more areas to oil and natural gas drilling — one of the group’s chief platforms.

Pickens agreed that the shift to natural gas and renewable power will take time. He isn’t trying to address current prices at the pump; Americans will have to find ways to live with expensive gasoline, he said.

And he acknowledges that building natural gas pipelines to every service station, erecting more wind turbines, and stringing the transmission lines to service them, would cost billions of dollars.

But with the U.S. spending $700 billion a year on foreign oil, investing several billion in wind turbines and new transmission lines would be an attractive trade-off, he says.

The legendary oilman, hedge fund manager and philanthropist is worried that U.S. oil consumption tends to support unfriendly Middle Eastern countries. He sounds mistrustful of members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

He concedes he hasn’t spent a lot of time in the Middle East, outside of recent trips to Iraq, Doha in Qatar, and Dubai. But he’s been around the block a few times and says he knows better than most people how to solve this country’s energy woes.

Pickens has been presenting his plan to politicians and other billionaires. He doesn’t want to say who, but he says, “I can’t find anybody that thinks it’s a bad idea.”

He’s been promoting bits and pieces of his plan for decades. Pickens has been investing in vehicular natural gas for years and now has plans to build a massive wind farm in the Panhandle. But that’s not the reason for his campaign.

“I’m 80 years old. I’m worth $4 billion. I don’t need to make any more money,” he said.

Instead, he said, this is about patriotism and his reputation as a man who “sure puts his money where his mouth is.”


July 8, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. I don’t think you’re paying full attention here:

    “Pickens will take the wraps off what he’s calling the Pickens Plan for cutting the USA’s demand for foreign oil by more than a third in less than a decade.”

    “Would the Pickens plan work?

    Some of the smartest energy analysts in the country say the U.S. cannot stop importing fuel.”

    He didn’t say we could stop importing fuel, but could reduce it my more than a third within a decade.


    “Besides, cutting oil imports wouldn’t necessarily reduce the price of oil, if Americans just replace it with domestic oil.”

    He was not recommending replacing it with domestic oil.

    “Nor would switching to natural gas reduce our dependence on foreign fuel if the U.S. begins importing more liquefied natural gas.”

    He isn’t calling for importing more natural gas either:

    “Getting lots more electricity with wind is only half of the Pickens Plan. Increasing wind-power production by itself won’t reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil because most of that oil is consumed as gasoline.

    The key, Pickens says, is that wind energy can be used as a substitute for natural gas now burned to generate electricity. That, in turn, will make far more natural gas available for use as a transportation fuel. Pickens’ plan is to produce enough wind power within 10 years to divert 20% of the natural gas now used to fuel power plants for use in cars and trucks. That’s much more aggressive a growth plan for the development of wind energy than envisioned by the Depart of Energy, which doesn’t expect the USA to be getting 20% of its total energy needs from wind until at least 2030.

    Pickens foresees as many as a third of the vehicles running on natural gas within only a few years. Julius Pretterebner, director of the Global Oil Group at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, says getting 15% to 20% of the USA’s cars to run on natural gas — in some cases, in mixtures with other fuels in dual-fuel vehicles — by 2020 would be an outstanding achievement, and doing that will require federal support to expand the necessary infrastructure.”

    Comment by Jeff | July 8, 2008 | Reply

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