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An Afternoon With Boone Pickens

Reformed oil man, repenting sinner, and borne again environmentalist T. Boone Pickens says that "When we turn the US green, it will have the best economy ever." I met the spry, homespun billionaire at San Francisco's Mark Hopkins on a leg of his self-financed national campaign to get America to kick its dangerous dependence on foreign oil imports.

For the past 30 years, the US has had no energy policy because "no one wanted to kick a sleeping dog" while oil was cheap. Production at Mexico's main Cantarell field is collapsing, and will force that country to become a net importer in five years. Venezuela will be shifting exports of its sulfur laden crude to China for political reasons, once refineries in the Middle Kingdom are completed to handle it.

Unfortunately, unstable energy prices and the disappearance of credit have put alternative energy development on a back burner. If the US doesn't make the right investments now, our energy dependence will simply shift from one self-interested foreign supplier (Saudi Arabia) to another (China).

Wind and solar alone won't work on still nights, and can't power an 18 wheeler. Don't count on the help of the big oil companies, because they get 81% of their earnings from selling imported oil, and don't want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. The answer is a diverse blend of multiple alternative energy supplies from American only sources.

Although Boone now has Obama's ear, it's a long learning process. Boone has donated $700 million to charity, and says the 20,000 trees he has planted should offset the carbon footprint of his Gulfstream V private jet.

I worked with Boone to organize financing for a Mesa Petroleum Pac Man oil company takeover in the early eighties, when it was cheaper to drill for oil on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange than in the field. Now 82, he has not slowed down a nanosecond.