, August 18, 2008 (ENS) - "Who would have thought last year that me and T. Boone Pickens would be in the same boat pulling the same oar the same way," U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada marveled to reporters on a teleconference last week to promote the National Clean Energy Summit that opened here today.
Once political foes, the Nevada politician and the billionaire oilman who funded his opponents have decided that energy is a bipartisan issue so important that it overrides political affiliation.
"When you go to the gas pump you don't check whether you are a Democrat or Republican," Reid said on the conference call with Pickens.
The two-day National Clean Energy Summit will be a wide-open discussion of all forms of energy - fossil fuel development and nuclear power as well as renewables.
Discussions will be shaped by Pickens' introduction of a plan to wean America off foreign oil with wind, natural gas, more domestic oil production and nuclear development. Since introducing it in early July, Pickens has been promoting his plan with TV ads and town hall meetings.
Pickens, who is building a giant wind farm in the Texas Panhandle, says natural gas is a "bridge" to improved batteries. It can be used for 20 to 30 years, he said, then we'll be into the next generation of renewable energy technologies.
Wind turbines generating electricity in Texas (Photo by Will de Freitas)
Pickens also favors drilling offshore and the development of nuclear power in the United States - whatever it takes to change the unacceptable situation the country is in today.
"Now dependent on foreign nations for 70 percent of its oil, the U.S. is exporting $700 billion annually, more than four times the cost of the Iraq war," said Pickens, who has worked in the oil and gas industry for nearly six decades.
Reid says America can only realize its renewable potential after Congress reauthorizes production tax credits for developers of wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies.
"There are people standing by with billions ready to invest in the future, sun, wind, geothermal, biomass," Reid said, adding that thousands of jobs have been lost over the last four monts as a result of not extending the tax credits.
Famous for his opposition to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump planned for a site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Reid said on the conference call that he is "not saying no, no, no to nuclear."
But Reid said most parts of the country cannot use nuclear power because it uses so much for water for cooling. And, he insisted, nuclear waste must be buried where it is generated instead of being shipped to Nevada for burial at Yucca Mountain.
To Reid, drilling for more oil and gas is not the whole energy solution. "Let's make sure everyone understands," he said, "we can't drill our way of this situation, but we will do everything we can to produce more domestic energy. Just two years ago, I pushed for 8.3 million acres of drill sites in the Gulf of Mexico - now that is done."
In Reno, Nevada on Sunday, Pickens met with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama of Illinois to discuss Pickens' energy plan.
Pickens held a parallel meeting with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain of Arizona on Friday.
In practically identical statements, Pickens said that he told each candidate "any credible domestic energy policy must reduce our dependence on foreign oil by at least 30 percent in the next 10 years."
Pickens described Obama as "very engaged."
"He understands the issues and is interested and excited by the work we are doing to educate and involve the people," said Pickens.
Pickens said McCain was "interested and encouraged."
"McCain very sensitive to security," Pickens said. "Importing 70 percent of our oil - now that's an issue of security. It's going to take us 10 years to reduce our dependency by 30 percent.
Reid says Al Gore was invited to speak at the National Clean Energy Summit but was not available. But the former vice president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate did find time to listen and comment on the speech Reid will give today as he opens the summit.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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