T. Boone Pickens promotes alternative energy plan

The billionaire visited MU as part of an alternative energy summit.
Junior Brian Satzinger parks the School of Engineering's hydrogen-fueled car, Tigergen 1, in front of Jesse Hall during the Missouri Energy Summit on Wednesday. Several universities and national energy experts including T. Boone Pickens attended the first-ever summit.

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens has been to MU twice. The first time was in 1998 when he spoke at the law school, and again last October to watch his alma mater's football team, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, upset the Tigers in a football game.

"You remember," Pickens, 80, said to a full house at Jesse Hall on Wednesday in reference to the football game.

He returned to MU to deliver the keynote address for the first ever Missouri Energy Summit, which was held as a collaborative UM system effort.

Columbia resident Craig Mays said the summit provided people with a glimpse into what is happening with energy in Missouri and the U.S.

"Things like this, they're really an opportunity for people to come together, share ideas, have some ideas heard," he said.

Pickens, who achieved most of his $3 billion net worth by aquiring oil companies in the 1980s, became alternative energy pioneer in 1997 when he established his energy-based hedge fund BP Capital Management.

Last July, Pickens launched and personally funded a $58 million campaign to promote the Pickens Plan, an alternative energy-driven plan to mitigate American dependency on foreign oil.

"There are 85 million barrels of oil produced every day, and we use 21 million," Pickens said. "We're four percent of the people, but we use 25 percent of the oil."

Graduate student Andrew Del-Colle heard Pickens speak to a group of journalism students shortly before the keynote address.

"I think it was interesting to hear him say that he wished he hadn't put so much on wind power," Del-Colle said. "It's not really economically viable unless you're in an area that has at least a class two wind, which is mainly the Midwest."

At the keynote address, Pickens said people who do not support his plan should have some plan to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil.

"When people tell me there is something they don't like about the Pickens Plan, I ask them, 'What's your plan?'" he said. "If you have no plan, then you're for foreign oil."

Citizen support for alternative energy research became an issue last November when every voting district in California voted against Proposition 10, which would use new taxes to fund alternative energy research. Pickens was a passionate proponent of the proposition, and he invested in an advertising campaign to promote it.

Proposition 10 was meant to fail, Pickens said. He said it is not indicative of a larger issue of citizen support for alternative energy research.

Despite his investments in Proposition 10, Pickens claimed he is not a political person, and the Pickens Plan is not a political issue.

"It has nothing to do with politics," he said. "It's good for the country. It will be very much like a war, but no guns, and no people shot or killed."

Freshman Sami Hall said she has doubts whether Pickens can politically achieve his goals.

"I don't think hardly anything can unite the Democrats and Republicans right now," Hall said. "I think something really monumental has to happen. We have to reach peak oil or those foreign countries have to do something."

Pickens mentioned no Missouri representatives or senators have subscribed to his plan, and neither has Gov. Jay Nixon. UM system President Gary Forsee, though, said Pickens' challenge is "hard to resist."

At the university and community level, people can begin to follow the Pickens Plan by simply getting informed, Pickens said. He said a lot of his plan, in conjunction with energy policies from President Barack Obama's administration, will unfold this year.

"We have to do it together," he said. "You have to join me."

Even in his serious call to action, Pickens maintained his sense of humor.

"You don't want to stick this old guy with all the responsibility," he said.

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