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Does D.C. get energy independence? Pickens is of two minds

At Stanford conference, Texas oil man offers qualified support for Obama energy moves, but says he's skeptical about Washington's ability to plan in the absence of an immediate crisis.

PALO ALTO, Calif.--T. Boone Pickens offered qualified support Thursday for the Obama administration's plans to reduce the nation's reliance on imported energy but said Washington's track record doesn't fill him with a lot of confidence about the will of the political class to get the job done.

Pickens CNET

"We have to get a plan going," said Pickens, who made his comments at the Global Technology Symposium at Stanford. He is the founder and chairman of BP Capital and has been promoting his own plan for energy independence since last year. The so-called Pickens Plan would exploit the country's "wind corridor" from the Canadian border to West Texas to produce 20 percent of the country's electricity.

The Texas oil man said dealing with the political class the last 40 years has left him skeptical about Washington's ability to plan in the absence of an immediate crisis. But just to drive home the point, Pickens said that his supporters planned a "virtual march" for April 1 with the roughly 2 million people who have signed up on his Web site ready to send e-mails and faxes to their elected officials.

"I do have an army now," he said. "We are going to have an energy plan and it's going to come from the grassroots. What it's going to say very clearly is that we want an energy plan...It has got to be done."

He was blunt about what he described as repeated failures of leadership dating back to the Nixon administration, when he said the government first promised to curtail the United States' reliance on imported oil.

"We spent $700 billion last year (on foreign energy imports) and we'll spend about $450 billion this year," he said.

"It's been a lack of leadership for the last 40 years," he said, describing the status quo as "a war without guns."

Call it serendipity but Pickens' comments come just as a new study predicts a sharp drop in oil supply production because of falling investment, a development that could be a harbinger of higher prices when the global economy picks up again.

Speaking about the new administration, Pickens said President Obama had shown interest in what the Texas oil man has had to say about developing alternative sources of energy. At the same time, however, he said the country's leadership needs to expand its horizons to include greater development of available natural resources--including gas and oil--in this country to augment the development of new technologies.

"It is America and there's nothing wrong with drilling," he said.