August 18, 2008

Pitching His Plan to the People


Boone Pickens, native Oklahoman and 50-year veteran of the oil and gas business, will speak Wednesday in McAlester about his Pickens Plan for U.S. energy independence.

The gathering marks the third town hall-style meeting Pickens is holding across the Midwest, which he calls the "wind belt," to focus on the region's potential for generating more power from wind turbines.

Jay Rosser, vice president of the Pickens-controlled BP Capital fund and a spokesman for the billionaire, said the meeting will be open to the public.

Pickens "will take questions from the audience in a traditional town hall approach," Rosser said. "He is genuinely interested in hearing from the citizens because we are talking about the future of our country."

Pickens has hosted similar meetings in Topeka, Kan., and Lamar, Colo., Rosser said, adding that he chose to have a town hall meeting in Oklahoma because the state has the eighth-largest wind power potential in the nation.

"The town halls build important grass-roots support as more and more people across the country start advocating for a new direction in energy built on the renewable sources of wind, solar and natural gas. We are building an army of advocates for the Pickens Plan," Rosser said.

McAlester, near Pickens' birthplace of Holdenville, is typical of towns that can benefit from the growth of alternative fuels, Rosser said.

"Wind development will have a profound economic benefit for rural communities in the wind belt. McAlester is near his beloved Holdenville and is part of the Woodford natural gas shale play, and natural gas will play a major role in our energy future," he said.

According to the Pickens Plan Web site, at pickensplan, the United States spends $700 billion annually on foreign oil imports. His plan, announced July 8, proposes cutting that amount to about $400 billion by investing in wind power and natural gas.

"The Pickens Plan is a bridge to the future -- a blueprint to reduce foreign oil dependence by harnessing domestic energy alternatives and buy us time to develop even greater new technologies," the Web site states. "Building new wind generation facilities and better utilizing our natural gas resources can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports in 10 years. But it will take leadership."

Pickens plans to spend about $58 million on a multimedia effort to promote this energy effort.

Calling the United States -- the Great Plains in particular -- the Saudi Arabia of wind power, the Web site also states that up to one-fifth of the country's electricity generation could come from wind turbines.

"Building wind facilities in the corridor that stretches from the Texas Panhandle to North Dakota could produce 20 percent of the electricity for the United States at a cost of $1 trillion. It would take another $200 billion to build the capacity to transmit that energy to cities and towns," the Web site states. "That's a lot of money, but it's a one-time cost."

Jeff Postelwait 581-8387

[email protected]

Pickens Plan pointers

The plan offers a detailed solution for ending U.S. dependence on foreign oil, which costs the country $700 billion per year. It calls for investing in power generation from domestic renewable resources such as wind and using the nation's abundant supplies of natural gas as a transportation fuel, replacing more than one- third of imported oil and saving more than $230 billion a year.

Building wind facilities in a corridor from the Texas Panhandle to North Dakota could produce 20 percent of the nation's electricity needs at a cost of $1 trillion. It would take another $200 billion to build the capacity to transmit that energy to cities and towns.

Natural gas is significantly less expensive than gasoline or diesel. In places like Utah and Oklahoma, prices are less than $1 a gallon equivalent.

Natural gas is the country's second-largest energy resource, and 98 percent of gas used in the United States is from North America. But 70 percent of oil used here is purchased from foreign nations.

Natural gas is one of the cleanest, safest and most useful forms of energy for residential, commercial and industrial use.

Town hall

What: Boone Pickens discusses his plan for U.S. energy independence.

When: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday (Doors open at 9 a.m.)

Where: Southeast Expo Center, 4500 W. Highway 270, McAlester

Admission: Free

Originally published by JEFF POSTELWAIT World Staff Writer.

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