STILLWATER — Billionaire T. Boone Pickens found a receptive audience Thursday at his alma mater as he discussed his plan to make the United States less reliant on foreign oil.
"I’ve been an oilman all my life,” Pickens said in a video screened for a crowd of more than 4,000 people at Oklahoma State University’s Gallagher-Iba Arena. "This is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.” Pickens spent about an hour detailing his plan to move the country closer to energy independence in what he described as one of the last stops in his $62 million personal odyssey. The crowd at Thursday’s town hall meeting was the largest to hear Pickens’ plan, officials said. The Pickens Plan, launched in July 2008, has drawn more than 20 million visitors to its Web site, making Pickens confident that a national energy plan is in the offing. "We are very close to finally getting an energy plan for America,” he said. "For 40 years, we’ve never had a plan.” Pickens said President Richard Nixon in 1970 predicted an end to foreign imports by the end of that decade. Instead the numbers have kept climbing, he said, from 24 percent of the country’s oil consumption in 1970 to about 67 percent now. Pickens said that figure will hit 75 percent for oil that costs $300 a barrel in 10 years if there is no energy plan, leaving no money to hot-button issues like health care and education. "This is not about politics. There’s not a Democrat or Republican angle to anything I’m talking to you about,” he said. "It’s about us. "It’s our problem and we have got to solve it.” Pickens advocates converting the nation’s 6.5 million heavy duty trucks to run on compressed natural gas, rather than diesel fuel. "It’s 50 percent cleaner, it’s a dollar a gallon cheaper and it’s ours,” he said. Watch T. Boone Picken's speech