The Pickens Plan Marches on Washington

$18 billion. Sound like a lot of money? It sure does to me. The worst part is that's how much Americans shelled out last month to import 386 million barrels of oil. Think about the impact those dollars could have made right here right now as our country works its way out of this recession. In less than six months we could have wired every American home and every American business for broadband. Talk about a way to help our country set the pace in the Information Age. But, instead of building our own infrastructure and creating much needed new jobs, we lined the pockets of state-owned oil companies run by Hugo Chavez and others. Doesn't make much sense, does it?

Now I'm going to up the ante to $475 billion. That's how much the Department of Energy estimates we spent in 2008 feeding our addiction to foreign oil. We could have funded every single highway repair in all 50 states for the next seven years with that amount of money. Or we could have maintained and repaired every one of our nation's bridges for the next 25 years. Take your pick. Yet instead of investing in America, we wrote off almost half a trillion dollars so that other countries could invest in theirs.

I've got one last number I want to throw out, and it's the most important one of all: 4,558,010. That's how many people joined me last week in our Virtual March on Washington, D.C. Millions of Pickens Plan supporters teamed up with millions more from our 32 partner organizations in the private and public sectors. All of us had the same goal in mind: to get Congress to write, to debate, and to vote on the many components of an energy plan that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil once and for all.

Boy, did we get a lot done. That's what happens when almost five million people email, phone, fax, and visit their elected officials non-stop for three days. I did my part, too: meeting with sponsors, attending bill introductions, and keeping the news media focused on the importance of getting us off foreign oil.

I joined Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK), Rep. John Larson (D-CT), and Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) as they announced the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2009. The idea behind their bipartisan NAT GAS Act is to develop domestically produced natural gas as a replacement fuel for the imported diesel oil that most heavy-duty vehicles and fleet trucks are using right now. It's good for the environment. It's good for the economy. And it's good for America.

I also offered my support to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who is promoting policies to create a National Renewable Electricity Standard. Right now 28 states have a Renewable Electricity Standard, which directs utilities to produce a set percentage of their electric power using alternative sources. California already requires utilities doing business there to produce 20 percent of their power from alternatives by 2010, and the rest of the country needs to follow their example. Sen. Bingaman wants us to get 20 percent from alternative sources by the end of 2020. Why? Because it's good for the environment. It's good for the economy. And it's good for America.

There's legislation to begin the process of building a 21st century transmission grid as well as to extend Production Tax Credits for wind and solar. In addition, proposed tax credits for energy efficiency in homes and buildings are already in the works. Senators Dorgan and Voinovich introduced a bill that would address many of the issues that have impeded development of transmission lines needed for renewable energy. That's the second bill to address developing a smart grid. The other of course is Majority Leader Harry Reid's. Both bills are good for the environment. They're good for the economy. And they're good for America.

I'm going to wrap this up with a personal observation. I've been going to Washington for a long time. Back in 1960s when I first went to Capitol Hill, there was always a good long wait before a Congressman or a Senator took the time to see me. But as the years went by and I enjoyed more success, that wait grew shorter and shorter. But that's nothing compared to what I saw last week when our Virtual March came to town. With three or four million people on my side, I'm a hell of a lot more important in Washington than I am as a rich guy from Texas. And you know what that means? America is finally going to get an energy plan.