- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oil prices could hit $300 a barrel if the T. Boone Pickens said Monday.

To prevent economic bankruptcy as a result of sending $700 billion a year overseas to unstable oil producers in the The Washington Times.

“We are getting in trouble fast” and the economy is “already in the tank” because the nation is importing 70 percent of the fuel it needs each day, he said.

“The price of oil will be $300 a barrel if you sit here and let it go” for another 10 years, said Mr. Pickens, chairman and chief executive officer of New York Mercantile Exchange.

“We need a leader who understands the problem,” said Mr. Pickens, who said that only one campaign aide for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has called him to discuss the matter - for about four minutes.

“We’ve got to get General Patton. George Patton is who you need. Give him the tools and tell him to take the hill.”

Mr. Pickens, who at 80 has amassed a fortune worth $4 billion producing and speculating in oil, said he has stopped giving to political campaigns and renounced his previous Republican affiliation in his drive to focus the nation’s attention on the need for immediate, drastic action on energy.

In appearances on Capitol Hill and newsrooms as well as in advertising across the country, Mr. Pickens is pushing a plan to displace about 38 percent of oil imports by switching to a fleet of buses and trucks that run on natural gas. But to accomplish that, the nation would have to stop using natural gas to produce electricity.

He proposes to replace the 22 percent of electricity fueled by gas with a new network of wind and solar power emanating from Great Plains and Western states where wind and sun are abundant.

Mr. Pickens said rural Plains state residents are enthusiastic about the wind projects he has started there, and would not resist building extensive wind farms and energy-transmission facilities there.

“I’m hoping we’re going to elevate this issue in the presidential campaign,” Mr. Pickens said, styling himself after H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who put budget deficits on the radar in the 1992 presidential campaign.

“We have our back against the wall now,” and the nation is in a position where hostile nations can hurt us simply by attacking one of our principal oil suppliers, he said.

“It’ll be like war,” Mr. Pickens said. “The American people will come together. We’ll pull in together and march in lockstep.”

Mr. Pickens said the cost of carrying out a plan like his would be about $1 trillion - as much as the United States will soon spend importing oil each year without taking any action to prevent it. All of the technologies in the plan are proven and can be adopted quickly, he said.

Mr. Pickens, who was a major contributor to President Bush in 2000, gave Mr. Bush credit for trying to galvanize the country behind big changes in energy policy, including drilling in the Alaskan wilderness and offshore, although he faulted him for not pushing natural gas as an alternative fuel for transportation.

Mr. Pickens’ plan draws from a recent Energy Department proposal that estimated the nation could generate 20 percent of its electricity with wind power.

“Bush has tried, no question he’s tried on energy, and they lock up” in partisan bickering over the Bush ideas in Congress, he said. “Partisan politics, it drives me up the wall. I’m so fed up with this stuff.”

In his new ecumenical role, Mr. Pickens said he was open to teaming up with former Vice President Al Gore, who is advocating a similar, dramatic switch to wind and other renewable energies as well as electric cars in his campaign to curb global warming.

“I told Al, ‘Look, I believe in global warming,’” but Mr. Pickens said he sees climate change as a secondary problem to be addressed only after the country secures greater energy independence.

The nation should do “everything” in its power - from expanding drilling to ratcheting up conservation and fuel efficiency - to achieve that goal, he added.

And while he agrees with Mr. Gore’s goal of replacing gasoline-driven cars with electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles in the future, he does not think the technology is advanced enough for that to occur right away.

Mr. Pickens’ plan envisions using natural gas as a “bridge” fuel until better technologies emerge. By a stroke of “divine intervention,” he said, the U.S. was able to double its once-scarce gas supplies using unconventional extraction methods from shale, so gas can now be used to help break dependence on foreign oil.

“I don’t have any problem with anything Al says except timing. You’ve got to have a bridge. But that’s a minor point.”