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Pickens: New administration needs energy plan

Billionaire energy magnate Boone Pickens said Tuesday that he expects the incoming presidential administration of Barack Obama will have an energy plan that will include renewable resources like wind and solar power.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Billionaire energy magnate Boone Pickens said Tuesday that he expects the incoming presidential administration of Barack Obama will have an energy plan that will include renewable resources like wind and solar power.

Pickens, speaking at a wind energy conference in his native state, said he thinks Obama "understands the problem" of the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

"I think we're going to see an energy plan for the first time in America, ever," Pickens said. "And a big part of that will be renewables."

Pickens, who spoke with Obama during the presidential election campaign, said he expects to see Obama's plan "within the next 30 days." If no national energy plan is put into place, Pickens said that within 10 years, the U.S. could be "importing 75 percent of the oil" used by the nation "and paying $300 a barrel."

The 80-year-old Pickens, who heads the Dallas-based hedge fund BP Capital Management LP, in July launched his so-called "Pickens Plan" for energy independence. The multimedia campaign is designed to bring more focus to solving the nation's energy crisis.

The plan calls for developing renewable energy sources to replace natural gas in power creation, and using the freed-up natural gas as a transportation fuel to help wean the U.S. from its dependency on foreign oil.

He said that since the administration of President Richard Nixon, the U.S. has not had an energy plan and that fluctuating prices for oil have kept policymakers from pushing hard to develop alternative energy sources.

He hopes that won't continue to be the case, with gasoline prices in Oklahoma hovering around $1.60 a gallon for regular unleaded in recent days. He said more Americans pay attention to the issue when oil and natural gas prices are higher, such as this summer.

"You'll see $140 oil again," he said. "...When the global economy picks up, demand will come up and the price will go up with it."

Pickens said he's heard countless politicians promise that if elected, they would work to solve the energy crisis, but they haven't had sufficient knowledge to keep those promises.

"They're not lying to us in Washington," he said. "They don't understand. They are totally ignorant to what's going on."

A key component of the Pickens Plan is taking advantage of a wind corridor that stretches through the central U.S., from North Dakota through Kansas and Oklahoma to Texas.

"It's unlimited the number of turbines you could put up there," he said.

Pickens has leased hundreds of thousands of acres for a giant wind farm in the Texas Panhandle, where he plans to erect 2,700 turbines. He has said that plans for the wind farm will be delayed by about a year, until 2011, because of the economic downturn.

He also touted the economic benefits of wind energy, using the west Texas town of Sweetwater as an example. Pickens said the town, once an oil center, had seen its population dwindle in recent years before a wind farm was built in the area, revitalizing its economy.

"People in the east and west say you can't do that, because of the NIMBY factor — not in my back yard," he said. "But let me tell you, people want it in rural areas of America. They don't mind it in their back yard."

State Commerce and Tourism Secretary Natalie Shirley said Oklahoma's wind energy industry has the potential to generate thousands of jobs in the coming years.

According to the state Commerce Department's Web site, the state's wind energy cluster could create more than 6,900 jobs within five years and create $1.48 billion in total personal income.

"The wind industry is developing rapidly and Oklahoma can become a sustainable energy powerhouse," Shirley said.

"There isn't one part of Oklahoma that will miss out on the opportunities provided by our emerging wind industry. Oklahoma is already among the nation's top wind producers and could be the number two producer by 2030. The focus we place on advanced manufacturing for our wind energy cluster will put Oklahoma far ahead of other states."