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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

Pickens presents plans to protect national security

Pieckens

Billionaire energy entrepreneuer T. Boone Pickens told campus and community members in a speech Friday morning that continuing to import upward of 65 percent of the country’s oil is among the United States’ greatest national security threats.

“We’re depending on oil from an enemy,” Pickens said. “We’re paying for both sides of the war.”

Pickens said his first and foremost priority is protecting the country’s national security, which came as a surprise to environmental activists attending the speech.

Over the past year, his $58 million ad campaign has in large part framed the issue of energy use in terms of environmental responsibility. However, he said in the speech that he was open to drilling in Alaska’s ANWR region, as well as in the water’s off the coast of the United States.

A green economy is the future, he said, but solar and wind technology still needed to catch up. Instead, he described natural gas, which the country has in abundant reserve, as “a bridge fuel to the future.”

From the 81-year-old Pickens, the message to students was clear: “It’s your problem. It’s not my problem.” 

Pickens has lobbied lawmakers and built a support network of 1.6 million people while advocating his plan for energy reform during the past year. He urged the students in attendance, many of whom were required to be there as part of the Kelley School of Business’ Integrative Core program, to get behind his plan.

“I think all he cares about is America,” said Jennifer Schalk, who works for the Environmental Defense Fund. Schalk was outside the IU Auditorium after the speech, urging people to send letters to Sen. Evan Bayh regarding resource sustainability.

Even though Pickens’ message wasn’t strictly in line with many environmentalists’ views, Schalk said his proposals are effective because they are bi-partisan.

Pickens stressd the bi-partisan point repeatedly while addressing the crowd of 1,600 -- students, faculty members and state business leaders all among them. He’s optimistic about current legislation in U.S. House of Representatives and in the Senate. He hopes comprehensive reform will be passed by October.

“For 40 years we’ve had no energy plan in America,” he said. “None.”

Later today, Pickens will meet with President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, in Washington.

Pickens came to IU at the request of Kelley Dean’s Council member and venture capitalist Gary Anderson. Anderson said he appreciated the midwestern connection between Pickens and IU. Pickens is orignally from Oklahoma and graduated from Oklahoma State University.

During those years, he said, each president has promised to reduce dependency on foreign oil. In each case, he said, oil imports have continued to rise. Between 1970 and today, Pickens said oil impots have risen from 24 percent to more than 65 percent. At that rate, he predicted the price of oil could rise to $300 per barrell.

“I’m an environmentalist,” he said,” but I’m realistic about it, too.”

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