Thursday, April 23, 2009

T. Boone Pickens puts his money where his mouth is

I attended a financial symposium at the University of Missouri/Columbia on April 22 and one of the highlights was an appearance by T. Boone Pickens. Mr. Pickens was speaking at a state energy summit and our symposium group was invited to attend. Most readers will recognize the name, but for the uninitiated, T. Boone Pickens is a billionaire businessman and one of America’s top philanthropists.

I was very impressed by both his energy and passion. He has undertaken a personal agenda to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. As a 40-year veteran of the oil industry, he has unique insight into this challenge. He revealed that we still purchase immense quantities of oil from “people who are our enemies,” and until we fix that “our country and economy are vulnerable.”

He will be 81 years old in a few weeks. I hope I am that sharp when I reach his age. He explained why he felt buying foreign oil was such a problem, and how he intends to fix it. Specifically, he feels that natural gas is the “bridge” fuel until more reliable and powerful batteries or technologies. Right now, batteries are incapable of powering an 18-wheeler, and he says that's a major part of our challenge. Over-the-road trucks (6.5 million in use today) burn a tremendous amount of diesel fuel and that's a significant portion of our reliance on foreign oil.

Mr. Pickens addressed questions from the audience. People asked about hybrid cars and/or battery operated cars. “I'm in favor of anything that's American," he said. However, hybrid or fuel cell cars will not in themselves solve the problem at this point.

Most impressively, Mr. Pickens has put $55 million of his own money into this campaign. He says his years of politics are now over, and his campaign is designed as a bipartisan project on a grass roots level. He suggested that everybody in the audience visit his website and register as a supporter. Millions have done so already, and this is the principal vehicle to promote change both in Washington, D.C. and among the American population.

It was a rare treat to see someone with such success and passion in advancing age. I've always liked people who “put their money where their mouth is" and Mr. Pickens is surely doing that on this issue. It was a fun and rewarding hour.

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