Thu, Jan 15, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Texas oilman pushes for US energy independence

AP , WASHINGTON

T. Boone Pickens hosts an energy policy briefing at the US Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AFP

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens is adding a new wrinkle to his push for US energy independence: monthly updates to remind Americans how much money they’re paying for foreign oil.

Pickens, a billionaire who is spending US$60 million on a high-profile campaign to boost the use of wind power and natural gas, said on Tuesday the updates would be a yardstick for measuring the incoming US administration’s progress on its goal of eliminating Middle East oil imports within a decade.

“You watch, we will elevate the interest in this,” he said.

Pickens and environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr said oil-rich Middle East nations are using billions of US dollars to build schools, roads and airports while US infrastructure crumbles. They made the comments during a briefing at the Capitol.

Americans sent US$19.3 billion overseas to foreign governments for their oil last month, said Pickens, citing government figures.

“It is outrageous that we are sending billions of dollars — US$432,000 per minute — overseas to foreign countries while domestic programs at home remain severely underfunded,” said Pickens, who plans to highlight the monthly figures on his Web site.

Pickens met with the leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and several Congress members to promote his plan. He urged them to support a plan for converting 350,000 large commercial trucks such as 18-wheelers to natural gas.

“I think they are thinking about all of this very seriously,” he said.

Pickens last July unveiled a plan to cut oil dependency by increasing the use of wind power and natural gas. Pickens wants to erect wind turbines in the Midwest to generate electricity, replacing the 22 percent of US power produced from natural gas.

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