Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's promise of embracing a national energy policy that focuses on oil and natural gas production and distribution drew support from billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens.
Romney on Thursday released his 21-page plan that calls for more state control of federal lands, less restrictive federal regulations and the completion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline as part of an effort to become energy independent by 2020 and “establish America as an energy superpower in the 21st Century.”
“They have a good plan. This will work,” Pickens said. “It needs more, but it is a real good shot at a plan.”
Pickens initially criticized Romney's plan on national morning shows for not focusing enough on natural gas. Pickens said his comments were based on an early outline of the plan that did not include a discussion of natural gas.
After reading the full report, Pickens told The Oklahoman's editorial board he now supports the Romney plan.
Pickens for years has called for the country's trucking fleet to convert to natural gas instead of oil, saying the effort alone would eliminate the need for three-quarters of the oil the United States imports from OPEC.
The Romney plan does not call for tax credits or other financial support for the effort, but it does cite it specifically as an example of how the private sector is “making massive investments in natural gas infrastructure.”
Pickens praised the tactic.
“He is saying heavy duty trucks need to get on natural gas. That is an easy sell because of the fuel savings,” Pickens said.
Natural gas as a transportation fuel today costs $1.50 to $2 less per gallon equivalent than traditional diesel fuel.
Harold Hamm, CEO of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc., is chairman of Romney's Energy Policy Advisory Group and helped formulate the plan.
“We have a great amount of oil and natural gas in America, and we think we can be energy independent by 2020,” Hamm said. “It's a smart and bold move, and it is very doable.”
Hamm said the most important part of the plan is the effort to give the states more control over drilling on federal lands.
The plan also calls for increased funding on research and development for wind, solar and other fuel types.
“He left it open for all kinds of energy,” Hamm said. “If it works, let's do it. If it doesn't work, the time hasn't come yet.”
Despite the call for research funding for renewable energy sources, Romney's plan focuses on oil, natural gas and coal.
Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, called the plan “an anchor to the past.”
“Mitt Romney has devised an energy insecurity plan that would make us even more dependent upon oil, coal and gas companies while ignoring climate disruption, economic growth and the health and well-being of the American people,” Brune said in a statement.
“The future America deserves is one in which energy doesn't cost lives and no one has to choose between a good job and good health.”
At a glance
Romney's Energy Plan