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Bob Moon: If you've watched TV recently, maybe you've seen this ad:
I'm T. Boone Pickens. This plan will work, but it needs your help. Join me. We can take back our energy future.
Moon: The Texas oilman is betting billions of his own money, promoting his idea for reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil. He wants to create vast wind farms in the Great Plains to make electricity and at the same time diverting natural gas that's now used for generating power. We caught up with T. Boone Pickens in Minnesota, where he's been attending this week's Republican convention, and I asked him to explain his plan.
T. Boone Pickens: Natural gas is about 20 percent of our power generation, and I would replace that with wind and take the natural gas and move it to transportation fuel.
Moon: You want to shift the use of natural gas that we use now to generate electricity, and use it instead for our cars.
Pickens:Yes, I do.
Moon: I have to ask you, you're facing a lot of headwind, so to speak, from critics who complain that you've got a big conflict of interest here. After all, you're not only pushing wind power, but you control a natural gas company, which would greatly profit from your plan.
Pickens: Well, that's an interesting question. But 80 years old, I have plenty of money. I see myself as a pioneer going out in front to do this. There's plenty of opportunity. If I'm right on the wind, you can come in on the deal too. I mean, there's plenty of room for everybody. But second, in the last five years, I've given away $700 million and my estate goes to charity. So it's not about me making money.
Moon: So, you want 20 percent of our energy to come from wind. I just read an article that says there are a lot of skeptical experts out there who think that this is a really tall order, given that these huge turbines and the power transmission lines are often opposed by communities.
Pickens: Well, they're not opposed in the Great Plains of the United States. All the farmers and landowners and cities in that corridor want that.
Moon: Why choose natural gas and wind power? Why not, let's say, nuclear.
Pickens: Nuclear's fine with me, too. I'm for everything American, because our dependency is so huge on foreign oil. You see, we're importing 12 million barrels of oil a day. And to give you a reference point, there's nine million barrels a day produced by Saudi Arabia. So, we have to come up with something that's gonna cut that 12 million barrels a day down substantially.
Moon: Let me ask you to respond to something that Will Wilkinson of the Cato Institute said in a commentary on Marketplace the other day. Here's some of his criticism of you:
Will Wilkinson clip: He's leaning hard on our worst nationalist impulses. What he's really saying is, why buy the things you need from dangerous foreigners when you could be paying more to buy them from rock-ribbed Americans, like T. Boone Pickens.
Pickens: It's more than me. I mean, this is about America. This isn't about Boone Pickens and whether Pickens' wind farm makes money or whatever happens to it. But I mean, here with $700 billion going out of the country, and let's say that we could cut it in half -- $350 billion in the United States, can you imagine how that would multiply for jobs here. I'd much rather that gonna $350 billion was being used here than to give some for foreign oil.
Moon: T. Boone Pickens, thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate your time.
Pickens: OK. Thank you, Bob.
Moon: Mr. Pickens has a new book out, by the way. It's called "The First Billion Is the Hardest." And you can hear more of our interview about the Pickens plan at Marketplace.org.