Alternative energy proponent visits Chicago

Pickens says the country needs a new energy plan to help move away from a reliance on foreign oil. And Pickens says politicians in Washington have been dropping the ball on energy for the last 40 years.

He's a billionaire oilman who lectures like a homespun college professor. Some suggest he's a bit of a nutty professor, but T. Boone Pickens insists that he is not crazy, and is "the only person in America with an energy plan." More than a million people nationwide agree. They've signed up to push the Pickens plan.

"You look at every candidate - Republican or Democrat from Nixon forward - everyone of them said, 'Elect me and you'll be energy independent.' Wrong - none of them even addressed the problem," Pickens said.

T. Boone Pickens warned his Chicago "town hall" audience Tuesday that if we don't come up with an energy plan, ten years out we'll be paying $300 a barrel for foreign oil, and the country won't survive.

"It's big. The idea I'm going to give you is very big," Pickens said.

His plan is essentially this - wind power. Populate the Great Plains of the U.S. from Canada to Mexico with wind turbines. Private funding, maybe up to a trillion dollars, puts the turbines up. The government plays a role in setting up the distribution system.

Second, start the move to making cars and trucks that run on natural gas, which is cheaper, cleaner and more abundant. The two together, Pickens says, drops our foreign oil dependence by more than a third.

His critics say Pickens is short on details, but he says, "I'm the only person with a plan."

What about the candidates? Well, McCain's plan for more nuclear reactors is fine, Pickens said, but, "He'll be 110 when we get those reactors, and I'll be 120."

And Obama's plan for a million plug-in hybrid cars is fine, but there's 250 million cars in the U.S.

"There's a pause, and he said, 'One million wouldn't be that many,' and I said, 'No, it would not,'" Pickens said.

Pickens has his own money in both wind and natural gas but insists his desire is not for profit but to make a better America and force the next president and Congress to do what their predecessors have not.

"They're either gonna take this plan or have a plan. But we can't let them escape with no plan," said Pickens.

Pickens laments the recent stock market chaos from a personal standpoint because it cost him a lot of money, and also because it's turned attention away from his energy plan with Election Day approaching.

Still, he's gratified that more than a million people have signed onto his idea which, he says, makes it more than just a plan pushed by a rich guy from Texas.

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