KANSAS CITY — Oilman T. Boone Pickens said he's already accomplished one of his goals in introducing a plan to wean the country off of foreign oil by promoting alternative fuels.
"What I wanted when I started this campaign of mine, what my plan was, was to get it elevated so the candidates were going to talk about it," Pickens said Monday at a meeting of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers Inc.
Pickens said he met with both Republican presidential nominee John McCain and Democratic nominee candidate Barack Obama to discuss his "Pickens Plan" for energy independence, and "both of them were 10s as far as interest." While McCain focuses on nuclear energy and Obama is interested in hybrid cars, it is important that the issue is on the front burner of the presidential campaign, Pickens said.
"I don't even want to talk politics, I don't even want to waste time on anything politically related," he said. "This is totally nonpartisan, this is something both parties can work on together."
Pickens, an 80-year-old who now heads the Dallas-based hedge fund BP Capital Management LP, plans to spend $58 million to promote his idea of building a wind power corridor in the Midwest to replace power produced from natural gas. The natural gas would be used for transportation until new technology discovers ways to increase the use of all alternative energy sources, such as wind, nuclear, coal, biofuels, geothermal and solar.
"I'm for every one of them," Pickens said. "Because this is American. That's our arsenal to work with."
The U.S. imports 70 percent of its oil, at an annual cost of $700 billion, which Pickens called a "ticking bomb" that is threatening our economy and security.
Pickens acknowledged that his plan would be expensive, both in developing the alternative energy and finding ways to transmit it. But he said if nothing changes, the country will be importing 80 percent of its oil in 10 years, at $200 to $300 a barrel.
"We are broke at that point," he said.
Strong leaders are needed to convince Americans that the expense and hassles of changing the nation's energy dependence is worth the effort, he said.
"You have to have the right leadership that's going to get up and sell this and say, ‘Let me tell you we can do it on our own, we have resources to do it on our own,'" Pickens said. "People have got to understand this has to be done, the country has got to do this."
In a talk earlier in the day, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer also discussed his support for all types of energy sources.
Schafer said he believes the country doesn't have a national energy policy because members of Congress work against each other to champion energy sources that are abundant in their states.
"We don't look at the overall policy, we say we don't have enough money, we don't have the resources, so therefore, I've got to get enough money for wind versus coal. ... Because of that, we have fractured the focus so much that don't get the overall policy," he said.
"It behooves us to put forward a national energy policy," said Schafer. "Until we have an overall, overarching energy policy to say this is where the country is going to go ... we're not going to move in the right direction."