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Capitol Weekly Interview: T. Boone Pickens

Walking the halls of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, one saw all sorts of surprising faces. Celebrities like Charles Barkley made cameos on the convention floor, as did Republican stalwarts like VP-wannabe Mitt Romney.

But perhaps no figure in recent electoral memory is more reviled among Democrats than Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens. The energy guru with the country singer’s moniker may not be known to the average convention-goer, but they know his political handy work. Pickens gave $3 million to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who ran ads attacking Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam record during the 2004 campaign.

Pickens also offered a $1 million reward to anyone who could prove any of the allegations in the ad were false.

But as Democrats formally nominated Barack Obama to be their presidential nominee, Pcikens was in the hall, shaking hands and sitting down with Charlie Rose, Capitol Weekly and anyone else who would listen.

What a difference four years makes.

Pickens, who made his money as a Texas oilman, was in Denver on a sales call. He is pushing a national energy plan that he says will ween America from its dependence on foreign oil. If it makes Pickens a little bit richer in the process, then so be it.

The centerpiece of the Pickens Plan is wind energy, which is says is the key to reducing our dependency on foreign oil by one-third in the next 10 years.

“As imports grow and world prices rise, the amount of money we send to foreign nations every year is soaring. At current oil prices, we will send $700 billion dollars out of the country this year alone — that’s four times the annual cost of the Iraq war,” states Pickens’ Web site.  “Projected over the next 10 years the cost will be $10 trillion — it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.”
Pickens, who claims that the United States is “the Saudi Arabia of wind power,” is building the world’s largest wind-energy farm. His plan envisions wind generation that stretches “from the Texas panhandle to North Dakota,” which he says will “produce 20 percentof the electricity for the United States.” All for the low, low price of $1.2 trillion.

“Compared to the $700 billion we spend on foreign oil every year, it’s a bargain,” Pickens says.

In California, Pickens has donated more than $3 million to Proposition 10, which would set aside $5 billion in bond money to give cash grants to people who buy alternative fuel vehicles, and provide $1 billion for research, development and production of renewable energy technology.

Capitol Weekly caught up with Pickens in the convention hall in Denver last week.

So , what brings you to the Democratic National Convention?

TBP: I’m trying to sell my energy plan
But this isn’t exactly the first place people would expect to find you
TBP: I know, but it is with the plan I’ve got. I’m trying to sell it, they like it and we’re doing good – making progress every day.
Did you happen to catch the speech of Gov. Schweitzer last night?
TBP: No, but I heard about it. He had a million plug-in hybrids. That’s fine, that’s good, but we have to get up into big numbers to cut the demand for foreign oil. For instance, we’ve got 250 million vehicles in America. So 1 million vehicles doesn’t scratch the surface. So, what we need is 10 times, 20 times, 50 times a million, and we’ll start to make some progress.
And you think natural gas-powered cars are the answer?
TBP: It’s the only fuel you have, it’s the only choice. You can’t get there with hybrids, there’s no way. You can’t make enough hybrids, not now. But it will be part of the solution.
How does Proposition 10 on the ballot this fall in California fit in with the overall Pickens plan?
Well, Prop 10 is going to lead to more natural-gas vehicles, which is good. We’ll cut down on foreign oil, and clean up the air.
Have you gotten any grief here over your role in funding the Swift Boat ads against John Kerry in 2004?
No, nobody’s given me any grief about anything. Everybody’s very friendly.

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