T. Boone Pickens Stars at Goodwin College

 Yesterday, my Horst Engineering colleague, Art Roti, joined me and a host of other folks to hear T. Boone Pickens speak at Goodwin College. Pickens was in town as a guest of US Representative John Larson. Congressman Larson, and Goodwin College President, Mark Scheinberg, hosted Pickens during his brief visit to East Hartford, Connecticut. It was a big day for Goodwin and a big day for East Hartford.

Many local business leaders and politicians attended the pre-event reception at Goodwin’s amazing riverfront complex. The 6th floor room offers great views of Hartford and the Connecticut River. Packed in were a bunch of people with interests in the energy economy, renewable energy, and the environment. Pickens made billions of dollars as an oil industry entrepreneur. He is a geologist by trade and loves to talk about our country’s natural resources.

 

Tired with the status quo, he has put $62,000,000 of his own money into the Pickens Plan. This plan is his effort to move energy policy forward. At the forum, Pickens was full of energy and well spoken regarding our country’s energy issues. He is passionate about his number one objective: reducing the United States’ dependence on foreign oil. Foremost, this is a security issue for Pickens. The efficiency, environmental impact, and economic growth objectives are laudable, but he is most concerned about the fact that we buy much of our oil from countries that don’t like us.

He referred to Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, as a “cluck.” Pickens went on to say that the credibility of the United States has suffered. We are 4% of the world population and we consume 25% of the oil. He pointed out that we are “paying for both sides of these wars” and that over the past 40 years, our increased consumption of foreign oil has resulted in the largest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.

 
He spent much of the time discussing transportation fuel, one of his favorite topics. His plan calls for the conversion of our heavy trucking industry from diesel fuel to natural gas. He pointed out that our country has abundant natural gas reserves and that we have not pursued the technology. Pickens said that one 18 wheeler is equivalent to 320 cars. Trucks consume a lot of fuel. He says that he has talked to the truckers and that they would get on board with a plan to upgrade the fleet to natural gas. He dismissed questions about natural gas infrastructure and said that it was doable.

 His natural gas for heavy trucks platform is a compliment to Al Gore’s batteries for light vehicles platform. He even said, “I’m with Al,” when talking about batteries. They do seem like an odd couple, considering Pickens’ Oklahoma/Texas oil industry roots. Congressman John Larson has put a bill before Congress (H.R. 1835) that would implement parts of the plan that Pickens is advocating. Larson referred to Pickens as his only “consultant.”

I went to www.pickensplan.com and signed up for the e-mail list. I’m interested in learning more about his personal history. He said that he has pumped millions into this campaign because it is his “mission.” He was too young to serve in World War II, and he had a young family during Korea. He said that this is how he felt, “This is your mission–step up to the plate.”

The visit was a coup for Scheinberg, Goodwin, and East Hartford. Congressman Larson took Pickens to lunch at his favorite local restaurant, Augie & Ray’s Drive In. The Augie & Ray’s staff had custom shirts made with the company logo and Oklahoma State colors. They were very proud to host Pickens.

As the forum wound down, Pickens remarked that he had to get back to Dallas for a dinner meeting. He was primed to hop back on his jet and carry his message elsewhere. Pickens warned the crowd not to think that energy is going to get cheap. Electricity, natural gas, coal, oil, and renewables are all going to require a major commitment on the part of every person. Consumption is as important as supply. Clearly, we need to do things differently. Art Roti and I got a chuckle when Pickens said in reference to the transportation challenges that we face, and the prospect of running out of oil, “The other option is everybody is going to get on a bicycle…I don’t think that is going to happen.” We looked at each other and both thought, bikes, why not?

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