Boone Pickens + Al Gore: Strange Bedfellows

I sometimes feel I shouldn’t be surprised by anything any more. Yet, sometimes, I am. When I heard conservative billionaire T. Boone Pickens describe his new-found friendship with former vice-president Al Gore, I laughed in disbelief along with the rest of the people at my table. Boone was serious.

“If Al Gore ever invites you to lunch,” he said, “let him order.”

The two were meeting at a Washington, D.C. hotel to discuss The Pickens Plan, Boone’s comprehensive energy plan bill before Congress.

“A hamburger and French fries, that’s what he ordered for us,” the fit 81-year old Mesa Oil scion said. “I won’t order it, but I’ll damn sure eat it.”

Pickens spoke earlier this week to a packed room full of Dallas business people at the Tower Club about his proposed national energy policy. It has morphed in the last year from an emphasis on using more wind power, to converting 18 wheelers in the trucking world  from diesel to natural gas. And that’s why he and Al Gore became friends. The Pickens Plan and Gore commitment to the environment are in alignment.

He’s tried for decades and through many presidents, he says, to get the political leadership of our country to rally around a strategic plan to reduce American dependence of foreign oil. “In OPEC, you’ve got a bunch of people who either hate us or just don’t like us,” he says and yet our dependence on foreign oil has grown exponentially. According to the Pickens Plan website in the early 70ies, we imported 24% of  foreign oil. Today, we import close to 70%, according to his website on the subject. When Bob Dole ran for president, he asked Pickens to be in charge of energy.

“When I suggested speaking out about energy policies, Bob said, ‘Do you see that sleeping dog over there?’ I said, naw, I don’t see it. But if you say so, I guess it is there.

Dole explained politicians never wake sleeping dogs.

As a result of Washington politics, Pickens says he has invested $62 million in this cause and developed a social median following estimated to be 5 million people . “Now, the politicians are listening,” he says. “Every president has said they would reduce imported oil. They all said it, but NO one did it. If we don’t, though, it won’t matter what we do about health care or education.” An energy plan, he says, supersedes everything-if America wants to survive.