ORLANDO -- T. Boone Pickens says the United States never has had an energy policy. No matter. The 81-year-old Texas oil and gas billionaire crafted one. And he expects passage this spring of federal legislation enabling a chunk of it -- fueling big trucks with natural gas.
He spoke with Staff Reporter Chrissie Thompson and other reporters here last week at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention.
If you're focused on heavy trucks, why are you speaking to light-vehicle dealers?
I'm not here to sell the guys today on switching over to natural gas. It will come down to light-duty before it's over, but maybe light-duty is electric. I don't know. Anything American, I'm for. We've got to make sure that we don't get off Saudi oil and end up with a Chinese battery.
What's the status of the legislation that would give tax credits for purchases of new heavy-duty and some medium-duty trucks that run on natural gas?
I've cleared about eight hurdles out of 10. You'll have it by Memorial Day.
And then the rest of your plan will catch on gradually?
In 10 years, it had better be a long way, because I'll be 91 years old. I gotta get a lot of this done before I leave here.
Have you run into trouble with your quick-passage approach?
I've been into the White House with [Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel. He knows the deal. He said, "Pickens, it can't be as simple as you're making it." And I said: "OK, Rahm, tell me. Complicate it and ask me the questions, and see how I answer."
It is that simple. Because you only have one resource [in the United States: natural gas]. Fortunately, it's the clean one. It's the cheap one.
You've met with AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson. How has that relationship helped your cause?
He told me the difficulties with going to another fuel. It's not easy; I understand that. I told him that my target is heavy-duty, and I don't think he finds any problem with that.