by: ROD WALTON Tulsa World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 14, 2010
1/14/2010 4:41:58 AM
|Congressional leaders should be ready to move soon on legislation that encourages greater use of compressed natural gas in heavy-duty fleet vehicles, T. Boone Pickens predicted Wednesday.
Pickens and John Podesta, the CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, updated reporters in a conference call on the "Pickens Plan" and the progress of bipartisan natural gas bills that are bottled up in congressional committees.
The plan stresses the need for alternatives — such as natural gas, wind and nuclear power — to imported oil as a matter of national security.
Both men hope that the bills, introduced last year, will get a full hearing once the health care debate ends. The legislation would offer incentives for automakers to produce CNG vehicles.
"There's a lot on America's plate," Pickens said. "We believe this is the No. 1. post-health care issue."
The Pickens Plan also will show its latest TV advertisement on cable stations Thursday. The ad plays oil-rich countries that foment anti-U.S. hatred against the use of natural gas to reduce U.S. energy dependence.
The plan proposes to convert millions of fleet trucks to cleaner-burning and domestically produced natural gas within seven years.
Pickens said the U.S. imported more than 4.3 billion barrels of oil last year, much of it from hostile countries. Reports put the average cost at $1 billion per day.
"It's insane for us to do that," he said. "At least half of that money can be retained right here in the U.S."
The continental U.S. holds more than 100 years' worth of natural gas, he said, adding that the fuel already is high in octane and would not need to be refined. It's also about $1 cheaper per gallon equivalent than diesel fuel, he said.
Podesta noted that a report released Wednesday by his group indicates that 20 percent of U.S. oil imports comes from countries listed as dangerous or unstable by the State Department.
The list does not include Venezuela, a major oil exporter that has seized assets of some U.S. energy companies such as Tulsa's Williams Cos. Inc.
He said the security risk posed by oil-rich countries "requires immediate attention."
Pickens, a native Oklahoman who moved to Texas, made his fortune in oil, but he's joined the Tulsa oilman George Kaiser and others in seeking alternate sources of energy.
U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., is a co-sponsor of House Bill 1835 — the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act, or NAT GAS. Its 87 co-sponsors include Oklahoma's four other House members.
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