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by Bruce Gietzen
WACO - Legendary oil man and philanthropist T. Boone Pickens says America better change the way it produces and uses energy or oil will hit $300 a barrel in ten years.
Pickens was in Waco Wednesday for the first "On Topic" public conversation with Baylor President Ken Starr. His focus was on energy, America's dependence on foreign oil and options to reduce that usage.
Right now, the United States imports just over 40 percent of its petroleum from OPEC nations, the most of any nation. It adds up to 25 percent of the daily production being used by only 4 percent of the population.
"That won't be allowed at some point," Pickens reasoned.
"For forty years, we've had no energy plan. The U.S. is the only country in the world with no energy plan and we import twice as much as anyone else," Pickens said. "In ten years, we'll be paying $300 a barrel if we don't do something."
He made millions investing in oil, but now believes the future needs to include wind energy, and even more so, natural gas. America has plenty of it with a 100-year supply, and it's a dollar-fifty cheaper than diesel fuel and burns a lot cleaner.
President Obama Wednesday pledged to cut foreign oil imports by at least one-third in the next 15 years. Pickens says it can be done quicker, and the place to start is to have big rigs powered by natural gas.
"I want to go after the big users," he said. "18-wheelers are the most patriotic, loyal group of guys - my Marines."
April 6th the NAT GAS bill will be filed in the House of Representatives. It's part of Pickens Plan, an initiative he's captained, and the measure gives a $60,000 tax credit to truckers who convert their big rig to an alternative fuel sometime in the next five years.
"We can get to 8 million 18-wheelers with natural gas in seven years, and that would cut our OPEC oil in half," Pickens hoped.
It's the best option, because "we're not going to be able to drill our way out of this. 70 percent of all oil usage is for transportation and that needs to change."
President Obama's message is a step in the right direction, but Pickens hopes the NAT GAS bill will be voted into law by the end of the year.
"We're gonna come off as the dumbest crowd that ever came to town, to have a resource that's cleaner, cheaper, abundant and ours, and we're importing oil from countries not friendly to us. It doesn't make sense," he warned.
He says it's a hope based on patriotism as much as profit. Now living in Dallas, the native Oklahoman has given away more than $700 million, and wants to reach $1 Billion before he dies. Half his estate is pledged to go to charity.
Baylor was Pickens' second stop on a college speaking tour, following Yale last week.