Obama promised T. Boone Pickens that government cars would run on natural gas

Oil magnate T. Boone Pickens believes President Obama has a plan to keep his campaign promise to wean America off foreign oil within 10 years — and Pickens thinks, well, he is the plan.

“[Obama is] a smart guy and I don’t think he would have said what he said if he didn’t have a plan – because that’s a big damn statement,” Pickens said on Monday in D.C., where he was promoting his natural gas and renewable energy blueprint known as the Pickens Plan.

“What I’d like for him to say and, I thought this was going to be in the State of the Union, is that all federal vehicles will now be on … domestic fuel,” Pickens said. In August 2008 the then-Illinois-senator requested a meeting with the 82-year-old tycoon, and Pickens told Obama that campaigning on a promise of getting 1 million electric hybrids on the road in 10 years was laughable. It was a drop in the bucket Pickens said, with more than 220 million cars on the road (though putting a few hundred thousand federal vehicles on domestic fuel would send a strong signal). Enter the Pickens Plan — a proposal to cut foreign oil imports in half by investing heavily in wind and natural gas-powered vehicles.

Pickens thought this year’s State of the Union was going to be his moment.

“A statement that was made to me was: ‘Don’t worry it’s going to be in there tonight’ — and then it wasn’t in there and the answer I got was: ‘The speech got too long and we had to cut it out,’” said a disappointed Pickens. He keeps hoping he will see the president leading America away from a dependence of foreign oil.

Pickens said he supports any kind of energy, “natural gas, electric, battery, I don’t care” — as long as it’s not “funding our enemies.”

“I’m a proponent of anything for America. Listen, 10 years ago if someone had said ethanol I might have thrown up — not anymore. Ethanol is ours and I’m for anything American.” Pickens is rich, old and sharp — he makes the rounds to the most influential lawmakers and opinion makers in the country, spreading his gospel.  Last week Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham introduced an energy bill that included many of the natural gas provisions, such as tax credits for natural gas powered vehicles, Pickens has been calling for.

The Pickens Plan, introduced a year and half ago when a stop at the pump cost $4.11 per gallon and oil was $140 a barrel, surprised many people who were quickly suspicious of the oil man who suddenly changed his tune to green-speak and renewable energy. Pickens, a former wildcatter, made his billions in oil development in the 1980s.

Pickens waves off the criticism that he stands to profit handsomely from any government programs for natural gas vehicles. “Yes I have some holdings in hedge funds,” he said, but claimed he wouldn’t have spent $62 million in advertising for his plan if he was in it for the money. Pickens owns a controlling stake in Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which owns natural gas production plants in Texas and California and operates a network of natural gas refueling stations. Pickens has also invested heavily in wind farms and water rights.

Pickens said that his motives are simple and patriotic. “I was never in a war,” he said. “World War II, I was a little bit too young and I should have been in the Korean War but I was married and had a child and I was deferred. And then I was too old for Vietnam … My dad was in World War I and it’s always bothered me that I … damn it, that I should have gone to the Korean War.”

“As this unfolded I thought, you know what, maybe this is your mission in life — maybe this is the mission that you get to do for the country,” he said.

Pickens said he is warning lawmakers that China is a threat — it has a plan and is working to secure oil pipelines while the U.S. is being left behind.

“We missed an opportunity,” in Iraq he said. “Because of our losses in Iraq — it cost us $1.5 trillion and we lost 5,000 and 31,000 injured — I really think we owed it to them,” he explained. “To get something for losing those people and spending so much money … a call on the oil at market price, I would think the Iraqis would be happy to give us that … and we didn’t even ask for it. We should have had the right of first refusal.”

“And now the biggest oil field there … Ramallah, will be developed by the Chinese — 15 billion barrels.”

Pickens admitted that President Bush told him he couldn’t do that because it would look as though the war was fought for oil. “But that was before we spent $1.5 trillion and lost 5,000 people,” says Pickens. “It’s eight years later and things change.”

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