Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Going green: Oilman touts winds of change

ABC Online News, Posted Wed Jul 9, 2008 10:28am AEST 

Updated Wed Jul 9, 2008 10:29am AEST

T Boone Pickens is a legendary Texas oilman who is now convinced that alternative energy is the cure for America's oil addiction.

"We are in an emergency, there's no question about it, and so something has to be done about it, $US700 billion is what we're paying now for foreign oil," he said.

When Richard Nixon was president, the US was importing 20 per cent of its oil. During the first Gulf War it was 42 per cent, and now it's almost 70 per cent.

Mr Pickens says Americans have lived with low petrol prices for so long, there's been no incentive to wean the US off foreign oil.

"So you haven't had the pressure on the politicians or the companies or the auto makers," he said.

So now this 80-year-old billionaire has launched a television advertising campaign worth tens of millions of dollars to tout his solution.

He says the first step is to turn to natural gas in the short-term for transportation, and wind power in the long-term.

Mr Pickens says America could be the Saudi Arabia of wind.

"It means we've got more wind than anybody else in the world, just like they have more oil," he said.

That is why he's building what could become the world's largest wind farm in Texas at a cost of $10 billion.

He says wind power could be the new cash crop for rural America.

But this life-long Republican isn't interested in talking to the presidential candidates just yet about their energy plans.

"The only way I'll talk to them is if I talk to them together or wait until one of them is president. I'm not going to show any preference in this campaign," he said.

The so-called "Pickens Plan" is being embraced by conservationists, such as David Willett, the national spokesman for the Sierra Club - America's oldest and largest environmental organisation.

"He is a businessman, so he's looking for ways to produce energy that are going to be profitable. So it's a both in economic and an environmental good idea," Mr Willett said.

He says one man can make a difference.

"This kind of effort could certainly benefit from help from the Government, but one man who has billions of dollars to spend can certainly push a market in the right direction and by showing that it's profitable to move into the renewable energy industry he could bring quite a few other people along with him," he said.

But even Mr Pickens acknowledges there's no short-term fix to America's soaring energy prices. He's predicting that a year from now oil will be at $US200 a barrel.

Based on a report by Kim Landers for AM

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