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T. Boone Pickens on Energy, Politics and Having a Plan

Yesterday I attended the Global Technology Symposium, an intimate conference at Stanford University in the heart of Silicon Valley. The key-note speaker was legendary oil man and entrepreneur, T. Boone Pickens.

The Pickens Plan champions natural gas and wind power to break America's addiction to foreign oil. Pickens was clearly frustrated with Washington's ambivalence to the energy problem: "It's been a lack of leadership for the last 40 years." That said, he holds high hopes for the current administration.

When asked about his thoughts on nuclear energy, Pickens responded, "I'm all for anything that's American."

What a powerful concept, I thought; being pro-American.

So why, when energy independence is supposed to be agenda number one, isn't Pickens' sentiment shared by every single politician in D.C., from President Obama on down? Nuclear, natural gas, drilling, battery, fuel cell, solar, wind, whatever. If it's American, our government should be incentivizing and clearing the way for the private sector to do it. But they're not. They're picking and choosing which technologies and initiatives to back, and what do you suppose influences those choices?

Pickens also discussed AT&T's commitment to spend more than half a billion dollars to buy 15,000 hybrid and natural gas-powered vehicles over the next ten years. Why aren't government agencies - from the postal service to taxi and limousine commissions - leading the charge on this front? Why isn't that part of the stimulus plan, or is it?

Politics is complicated. I guess that's why I love business. Business is relatively straightforward and logical. You create a value proposition that benefits customers better than the competition. There's nothing complicated about that.

Pickens also shared a story about his early college years. He had just jumped majors - from pre-vet to business - and his dad was concerned. He told T. Boone, although I'm guessing he didn't call him that, "A fool with a plan is better than a genius with no plan. I'm afraid I've got a fool with no plan on my hands."

At 80, Pickens is a man with a plan. He seems to be one of those people who quickly sizes up a situation, comes up with a plan, and acts. There's no sitting around or endless analysis and debate. It seems to have worked for him. Something to consider.

[image courtesy of CNET]

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