Billionaire Pickens says Obama lacks energy plan

May 20, 2011 - 6:28 PM
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President Barack Obama speaks to CIA employees at the CIA Headquarters, Friday, May 20, 2011 in Langley, Va. Obama congratulated the country's intelligence workers for the years of effort that led to the discovery and killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden. He also thanked them for their daily work in protecting America, saying he'd never felt prouder or more confident about them. He said they're proof that when Americans put their mind to something,

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens faulted President Barack Obama on Friday, saying the president has failed to develop the energy plan he promised Americans as a presidential candidate in 2008.

The oil magnate and advocate for alternative fuels said at a town hall meeting at a southeast Pennsylvania university that the Democratic president hasn't followed up on a campaign promise to end America's reliance on Mideast oil within 10 years.

"He's never told us how we're going to get off the Mideast oil, and no one's ever asked him," Pickens said. "We're the only country in the world that has no energy plan."

Pickens stressed, though, that he believes Republicans also have been remiss in tackling the problem.

Since taking office in January 2009, Obama has boosted corporate fuel economy standards, put billions of stimulus dollars into renewable energy projects and worked to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In March, Obama called for a one-third reduction of oil imports by 2025.

But many of his proposals have stalled in Congress, where Republicans have prioritized increased drilling over renewable energy initiatives.

Though Pickens rose to national prominence as an oil tycoon, he has been a vocal supporter of alternative energy, including natural gas, wind and solar power. He maintains that limited resources such as natural gas are not a permanent solution for U.S. energy needs, but should be used as a stopgap measure until new technologies can be developed.

Pickens spoke at West Chester University, 25 miles west of Philadelphia, and toured its refueling station for its 22 natural gas-operated vehicles. He was joined by U.S. Republican Reps. Patrick Meehan and Jim Gerlach. The two congressmen are co-sponsoring legislation to accelerate natural gas production and consumption as a way to lessen dependence on foreign oil and lower fuel emissions.

University officials said they spent an additional $7,700 upfront for the vehicles, but pay $1.65 per gallon for the natural gas to fuel them — less than half of the current price for regular fuel in Pennsylvania.

Pickens said the United States uses 20 million barrels of oil per day — 13 million of those are imported. He noted that despite being 4 percent of the world population, Americans use almost 25 percent of oil produced worldwide.

Although he supports alternative energy initiatives, he also defends the natural gas drilling process known as "fracking" used in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and elsewhere that Obama, many environmentalists and others say may threaten the quality of underground water. In the process, fluids are injected into the ground at high pressure to fracture underground rocks and release the gas deposits.

"This isn't anything that's going to hurt anybody," Pickens said, adding that he's never seen any evidence of aquifers being damaged by the more than 8,000 natural gas wells in the U.S. that have used the practice.