MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
You may have seen Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens on TV recently. He amassed a fortune in the oil and gas industry and now, he's gaining a passionate following for his plan to use natural gas, wind and solar power to wean the nation off foreign oil. But as Pickens lays out the details, some environmentalists are saying his plan may not be as green as they thought.
From Kansas Public Radio, Peter Hancock reports.
PETER HANCOCK: Judging from the overflow crowd that poured into the meeting hall in Topeka to hear T. Boone Pickens speak yesterday, you might have thought they were waiting for a rock star, not an 80-year-old oil tycoon who came to talk about energy policy. About 400 people packed into the building and hundreds more stood outside in the steamy afternoon heat to listen through loud speakers.
Kansas may have been an ideal starting point for what Pickens is calling his Wind Belt town hall meeting tour. Controversy here over applications to build two new coal-fired power plants dragged the state legislature into gridlock earlier this year, pitting Republican leaders against Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius who introduced Pickens.
Gov. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (Democrat, Kansas): One of the things about Kansas is even when the legislature is not in session…
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Gov. SEBELIUS: …we are the third windiest state in the country.
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Gov. SEBELIUS: No question. And that's been demonstrated.
HANCOCK: When Pickens started talking, he was quick to make clear that his plan is not about saving the environment.
Mr. T. BOONE PICKENS (Oil and Gas Tycoon): Democrats up there in Washington, they wanted me so bad to say I was not for drilling. I said, no, I'm for drilling. And they said, well, but why don't we drill on what we have? I said, I'm ready to open up OCS, ANWR, Florida. I don't care.
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HANCOCK: As he outlined his plan and fielded questions from the audience, Pickens said the problem is that the U.S. can't produce enough oil to meet its needs long into the future, and relying on foreign oil threatens both the economy and national security. What America does have plenty of, he says, is natural gas. His plan is to use wind and other renewable sources to free up natural gas that's now used to run power plants, making it available as a fuel for transportation. That means convincing Detroit to make cars that run on natural gas. Joe Speece(ph), who sells green energy equipment in suburban Kansas City, raises concerns about Pickens' plan.
Mr. JOE SPEECE(ph): I'm real skeptical about his motives because, you know, he's the largest single holder of natural gas properties in the country.
HANCOCK: T. Boone Pickens calls his plan a bridge to the day when this country can wean itself from fossil fuels entirely, and he plans to continue holding town hall meetings through the fall in hopes of focusing public attention on the issue before the November elections.
For NPR News, I'm Peter Hancock in Topeka.
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