Oil billionaire supports alternative energy

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | 9:20 p.m. CDT
T. Boone Pickens, an oil billionaire and philanthropist, speaks at the Missouri Energy Summit on Wednesday in Jesse Auditorium at MU. He has started the "Pickens Plan," which is a campaign to reduce dependence on foreign oil. "This is going to be a model in America on how to do something grassroots to Washington...It has nothing to do with politics," he said.

COLUMBIA — T. Boone Pickens encouraged support of energy legislation during his Wednesday visit to MU. The oil billionaire was the keynote speaker at the Missouri Energy Summit where he advocated for energy independence.

Pickens discussed the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2009 with conference attendees. The act, known as HR 1835, was introduced in Congress at the beginning of April by Rep. Dan Boren, D-Oklahoma. The resolution encourages investments in alternative energy such as natural gas, which is a key component presented in the Pickens Plan. He revealed his plan on July 8, 2008, explaining his concern that 70 percent of U.S. oil consumption originates abroad.

Missouri Energy Summit

The Missouri Energy Summit will resume Thursday with a keynote address by Gov. Jay Nixon at 8:30 a.m. in Jesse Auditorium.

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"The oil is coming from people that are not even friendly to us and some that hate us," Pickens said. "There are 85 million barrels a day produced in the world. Of the 85 million barrels, we use 21 million — that’s 25 percent — and we only have 4 percent of the population."

Pickens said the stimulus package helped his cause.

"It was exactly what I wanted," he said. "It was wind, solar and the grid (to support alternative energy)."

The energy initiative is an attempt to alleviate the country's dependency on foreign crude oil.

"It has to be done. Not for me, but for the generations to come. I can make it to the finish line and my standard of living won't change, but I can tell you generations to come, it's going to be much, much different."

The launch has led to his growing popularity as an advocate for alternative energy, which is why he was selected to be a significant part of the two-day summit, UM System president Gary Forsee said.

"His role today was to be a catalyst and help stimulate the discussion," Forsee said. "As he said, very wisely and repeatedly, this is about creating awareness and getting more people involved."

Following video greetings from U.S. senators Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill, Pickens addressed a sold-out crowd in Jesse Auditorium.

Prior to the keynote address, Pickens sat down with a group of MU journalism students to share his experiences working with the media. He openly gave feedback as students asked questions.

Pickens was comfortable getting feedback as well. It was his candid humor and casual delivery that resulted in the biggest reactions.

Back in Jesse Hall, Pickens told the crowd of his first trip to Columbia to speak at a law school event in 1998.

"And then the other time I was here was last October," Pickens said referring to the MU football game against Oklahoma State University. Pickens' alma mater happened to be the only team to defeat MU at Faurot Field in 2008.

"You remember," he teased, as the crowd burst into laughter.

"Well anyway, we both like to beat Oklahoma, don’t we?" he asked, earning applause.

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