Oilman turned wind wildcatter T. Boone Pickens met with presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain Friday morning to pump his Pickens Plan to wean the United States from imported oil by shifting electricity production to wind farms and using natural gas to fuel cars and trucks. On Sunday, he’ll hook up with Democrat Barack Obama.
The McCain meeting was “good…very relaxed,” Pickens said Friday during a conference call with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to promote next week’s National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. “It was a free flowing discussion. I presented the Pickens Plan to him, and he asked a lot of questions about it. He feels like I’m an energy expert, and he wanted information.”
Pickens began a campaign in July to foster a bipartisan approach to reducing the U.S.’s dependence on imported oil, declaring the “the United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind power.” Pickens is building the nation’s largest wind farm in Texas, and he has an interest in a natural gas transportation company.
Though Nevada Democrat Reid remarked, “Who would have thought that T. Boone Pickens and Sen. Harry Reid would have been in same boat pulling the oars same way,” Pickens made clear he’s no latter-day Al Gore.
“I’d open it all up to drilling – OCS, ANWAR,” he said, referring to the outer continental shelf and the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge – the third rail of environmental politics.
“The one place I differ with Senator McCain is that I said if you’re going to open the OCS, throw in ANWAR too,” Pickens added.
Gore and other greens have questioned the viability and environmental impact of using natural gas for transportation. Pickens, on the other hand, said he isn’t opposed to electric cars. But, he added, “We can’t make a big cut [in oil imports] in ten years without using natural gas as a transportation fuel. Use it for trucks and let them do what they want with cars.”
For Reid’s part, he said offshore drilling was still on the table, but he’s pushing for Congress to extend the renewable energy investment tax credit that expires at the end of the year. Scores of wind and solar projects – like the massive photovoltaic power plants that California utility PG&E (PCG) unveiled Thursday with SunPower (SPWR) and OptiSolar – are contingent upon Congress renewing the 30% tax credit.
“We have people standing by willing to invest billions of dollars in renewable energy,” Reid said. “The future is not in a commodity that was discovered in the 18th century. The future is sun, wind, geothermal.”