T. Boone Pickens, Popular Man
By Michael D. Shear
Talk about odd couples.
T. Boone Pickens, the oilman turned environmental crusader, met this morning with Republican presidential nominee John McCain for an hour-and-a-half, using the time to peddle his Pickens Plan for energy independence.
"It was good meeting. It was very relaxed," Pickens said afterward. "I presented the Pickens Plan to him. It was a free flow of questions and answers."
But less than two hours later, Pickens was the featured guest on a conference call with Senate Majority Leader Harry S. Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate's top Democrat, praising Reid's environmental work and pledging to work hand-in-hand at an upcoming environmental summit.
"Who would have thought last year that T. Boone Pickens and Sen. Harry Reid would be in a boat pulling that oar the same way?" Reid joked on the conference call with reporters.
McCain and Pickens are of a mind on oil drilling; both want to expand drilling off the U.S. coast to reduce reliance on foreign sources, though Pickens supports drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, while McCain does not.
Pickens is also a big proponent of alternative forms of energy, such as wind power. McCain has expressed support for renewable energy, but has also voted against tax credits that the young industries have deemed critical.
McCain and Pickens, a billionaire, met for breakfast at the Aspen Institute, where McCain and his team arrived to film television commercials.
Following the meeting, Pickens declined to compare McCain's commitment to his proposals with Sen. Barack Obama's. Pickens said he is scheduled to sit down with Obama on Sunday.
But Pickens said he was impressed that McCain was "very sensitive to security, and importing 70 percent of our oil now is a security question."
During the conference call with Reid, Pickens sang the praises of natural gas, saying that powering automobiles by natural gas would provide a bridge to even cleaner technologies in the future. He also urged a greater use of nuclear power.
And he said that he will seek to make energy the number one issue in the campaign this year.
"There's no question that this is uppermost in the minds of the American people and it has to be addressed in this presidential campaign," he said.
Posted at 5:54 PM ET on Aug 15, 2008
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