WASHINGTON – Oilman and energy guru T. Boone Pickens offered some unsolicited advice to President-elect Barack Obama Tuesday: Push U.S. automakers to build vehicles that run only on domestic fuel.
And while he's at it,Obama should offer $50,000 to anyone who modifies his or her 18-wheeler to run on natural gas instead of diesel,Pickens said. Speaking just blocks from the White House at an event sponsored by Republican speechwriters,Pickens pitched his now-famous plan to end America's reliance on imported oil.
“This is our last chance to get this problem straightened out,” Pickens said. In 10 years,he warned,the U.S. will import 75 percent of its oil – 9 percent more than it did in 2007,according to the government's oil wonks at the Energy Information Administration. And that oil will cost at least $250 a barrel,he said,more than five times what a barrel of crude oil cost in late November.
By his estimates,the country will shell out $10 trillion for foreign oil over the next decade if imports continue rising. Pickens calls this the greatest transfer of wealth in human history,a river of money he says only natural gas can stop.
Pickens,who made his fortune in oil during the 1980s,now runs BP Capital Management,a hedge fund savaged by the recession. One path to recovery,for both the economy and Pickens' investments,is his plan to build huge wind farms to free up natural gas for cars.
Wind farms across the Midwest could supply 20 percent of the country's electricity,replacing the chunk now generated with natural gas. That gas could power cars,an idea Pickens has pitched in numerous TV commercials.
Building thousands of wind turbines across the Midwest would create jobs and shore up Pickens' hefty investment in wind power. His company,Mesa Power,plans to build the world's largest wind farm in Pampa,Texas,once the credit crisis clears up. Unable to secure financing,Pickens was forced to delay the project last month.
Pickens met with Obama and Republican candidate Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz.,before the election but did not endorse either one.
“President-elect Obama,I think,understands this issue pretty well,” Pickens said.
Despite falling oil prices and uncertainty about the future of wind power,Pickens emphasized that oil is the past,not the future.
“Don't look for cheap oil,” Pickens said. “That's over with,it's done.”