'T. Boone' wants to kick the foreign oil habit

By Ward Connerly| July 30, 2008

ward connerlyIn the interest of full disclosure, T. Boone Pickens is a friend of mine and a strong ally in my fight for equal treatment for all Americans. Boone is also one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the history of our nation.

A mutual friend of ours, former California Governor Pete Wilson, once remarked that Boone is “a real stand-up guy whom I greatly like and respect. Despite all the reasons he has to feel superior, he is a delightfully down-to-earth guy with a great sense of humor who does not take himself too seriously …”

During the week of July 7, 2008, Boone released the “Pickens Plan” – a proposal to reduce America’s demand for foreign oil by more than a third in less than a decade. At a speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on July 11, Boone said, “We’re paying $700 billion a year for foreign oil, and it’s breaking us as a nation. What I want to do is to put the issue of our dependency on foreign oil right into the presidential campaign so that the candidates will be forced to tell the American people what they are going to do about this problem.” Boone noted that none of the presidential candidates or members of Congress demonstrate any serious interest in or knowledge about solving the oil problem and addressing the relevancy of this problem to America’s economy and long-term national security.

One doesn’t have to be an energy expert to understand the problem as it is described by Boone: “Nixon said in 1970 that we were importing 20 percent of our oil and that by 1980 it would be 0 percent. That didn’t happen. Instead, it went to 42 percent in 1991 with the Gulf War. Now, it’s just under 70 percent and growing. Where do you think we’re going to be in 10 years when our economy is busted and we’re importing 80 percent of our oil and China and India are demanding more oil as well?”

In addition to our dependency for oil on countries that do not have America’s best interests in mind, Boone is greatly concerned that we are annually transferring $700 billion in American dollars to foreign interests. How can a nation remain sovereign when it continues to export nearly a trillion dollars annually for a product – oil – that is constantly being depleted?

The “Pickens Plan” is a proposed solution to this problem. In fact, it is the only comprehensive solution on the table. Under this plan, energy from wind would be used as a substitute for natural gas, now burned to generate electricity. In turn, the natural gas freed from electricity demands would be available for transportation fuel. Boone believes we can produce enough wind energy within 10 years to divert 20 percent of the natural gas now used for electricity to fuel power for use in cars and trucks.

To some, talk of using wind power sounds like a lot of hot air. But, T. Boone Pickens didn’t become successful through hot air; he did so by being a visionary and working to convert his ideas into reality. One only need travel to Sweetwater, Texas to find evidence that Boone is on to something big with his Pickens Plan. In Nolan County, where Sweetwater is located, wind energy produces sufficient electricity to cleanly and cost-effectively power a city of several hundred thousand people.

In his characteristically bold manner, Boone is spending $58 million out of his own pocket to fund a campaign to inform, educate and energize (pardon the pun) the American people about the exciting opportunities offered by his plan. To be certain, Boone has his share of skeptics. On more than one occasion, I have read and heard his critics suggest that there is some hidden agenda involved in the “Pickens Plan.”

At the end of Boone’s presentation in Jackson Hole, one individual asked, “Why are you doing this?” As Boone reflected for a moment, four of us in the room – Madeleine Pickens, Gail and Dan Cook, and I – were wishing we could answer on Boone’s behalf.

On May 22 of this year, Boone celebrated his 80th birthday. A few weeks before, I was in Dallas and had dinner with Boone, his wife, Madeleine, and his assistant, Jay Rosser (who wants it known he is a bachelor in search of a good woman, which is evidence his boss’ great sense of humor is infectious). It was during dinner I learned a few things about Boone that others who know him already knew. This is what we would have told the man who asked why he was spending $58 million to promote the Pickens Plan: “T. Boone” loves America, he is extremely well-informed and passionate about energy issues, he is tireless and energetic, he has all the money that he would ever need in a million lifetimes, and he wants to do his part to help his fellow Americans solve a problem that could fatally affect our nation.

We all know the cost of gas at the pump is increasing at a frightening pace. There was a time not too long ago when you could buy a gallon of gas, a good hamburger, fries and a milkshake for $5. Now, you can forget the hamburger and the milkshake. Soon, that $5 will be devoted solely to the gallon of gas. This problem demands our attention. That’s what the “Pickens Plan” is designed to do – make us think.

For my part, I can only say, “Thank you, Boone. You are a great American!”