T. Boone Pickens believes the key to America's energy independence is right under our feet and, on Friday, he will bring that message to Williamsport.
Pickens, a billionaire financier, oil and gas man and chairman of hedge fund BP Capital Management, will be on hand for "Powering Our Future: A Conversation with T. Boone Pickens" at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.
During a recent interview, Pickens said his so-called "Pickens Plan" will wean the United States off of foreign oil, particularly Arab oil, and create millions of jobs in the nation's energy sector.
T. Boone Pickens is coming to the city.
Pickens said the plan, which he unveiled in 2008, focuses on transitioning the nation's transportation fuel from oil to domestically-produced natural gas.
"The starting point is to get on our own resources and get off OPEC oil," Pickens said. "We have resources in America that allow us to do that and we are foolish if we don't do it."
The first step in that direction - and one Pickens said he is confident will be made - will be to convert heavy trucks from diesel fuel to natural gas.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Powering Our Future:?A Conversation with T. Boone Pickens"
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.
"It's pretty clear what you want to do is use natural gas for heavy duty trucks and get off OPEC diesel," he added. "(Because natural gas) is 30 percent cleaner and $1.50-$2 a gallon cheaper, all this is going to happen."
According to Pickens, the United States spent $475 billion on foreign oil in 2008 alone. The oil bill for the next 10 years will be $10 trillion.
The Marcellus Shale will play "a big part" in the success of the plan, he said.
Pickens said he planned to meet with lawmakers in Washington and believes he has their support through the Natural Gas Act legislation.
The proposed legislation, which Pickens said has the backing of more than 180 legislators, encourages the use of domestic natural gas to fuel heavy trucks and fleet vehicles.
The legislation - H.R. 1380 - promotes the transition from oil to natural gas by providing tax incentives and subsidies for producing or buying vehicles fueled by natural gas or liquified natural gas and for building the infrastructure needed to fuel those vehicles.
Not everyone is on board with the legislation. This May, U.S. Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Howard, removed his name as a co-sponsor of the bill, according to the Congressional Record. Other Republicans have done likewise, but Pickens said he remains confident the legislation has enough support.
"The plan is pretty simple," he said. "I think if you have a vote, you'll have over 300 votes (in the House)."
Pickens expressed confidence the industry will rise to the challenge of dealing with wastewater created by drilling operations, particularly hydrofracturing - or "fracking."
He said the industry already has made significant inroads by using "closed loop" systems that diminish the chances of spills and the use of recycling wastewater.
He also said his own experience - oft-repeated by the industry, but viewed with skepticism by environmentalists - is that fracking never has contaminated groundwater.
"I am 83 years old and have been in the oil and gas business ever since. I've probably fracked 3,000 wells and 2,000 of them have been in the largest aquifer in North America," he said. "We never had one failure."
Pickens became slightly testy when questioned about local problems caused by the gas industry.
"Do you shut down an industry just because it damages roads?" he asked.
"We'll shut (the industry) down, then," he said dismissively, when further pressed about local impacts.
Pickens said the biggest impact his plan will have is the creation of jobs and the retention of billions of dollars now being sent overseas for foreign oil.
"The (gas) industry has created more jobs than anybody else has and jobs are on page one," he said. "You are paying out for foreign oil every day. When you do that, it doesn't help the job situation."
Pickens said he plans to talk about his plan on Friday and then will answer questions from the audience.
For more information or to purchase tickets for "Powering Our Future: A Conversation with T. Boone Pickens," log on to www.caclive.com, or call 326-2424.