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Rahm Emanuel

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U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said developing alternative energy sources is the key to a secure energy future at a town hall meeting on energy independence on Tuesday.

Oil magnate recruits Chicagoans to end foreign oil dependence

by Jen Thomas
Oct 14, 2008

 As the country struggles in the grips of an energy crisis, an unlikely savior wants to come to the rescue, saying he has the solution to the nation’s dependency on foreign oil.

“The problem is pretty obvious. We import way too much oil from people who aren’t too friendly to us. This is an unusual position,” said T. Boone Pickens, a billionaire oil tycoon who is now pushing alternative energy solutions.

Boone told an audience of nearly 400 people at the grand ballroom at Navy Pier Tuesday that the key is harnessing the country’s own natural resources, specifically wind power and natural gas. Pickens contends in his plan that wind power could produce 20 percent of U.S. electricity, and natural gas would become the country’s most widely used transportation fuel.

“Anything that’s American, I’m for,” Pickens said.

U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) joined Pickens in urging the next president to develop a detailed energy plan that relies primarily on domestic fuels.

Emanuel said he and Pickens made for an unlikely alliance, but they are united on the issue of securing a bright energy future through the use of natural gas.

“Very rarely do you get a hat trick in politics. And I don’t play hockey. But that hat trick is great for our energy independence, great for our economy, great for our environment, let alone what it does for our foreign policy,” said Emanuel.

Pickens said he was not impressed by either of the presidential candidates’ energy policies, saying they thought too small.

“We cannot go another year without an energy plan. The country cannot survive it,” he said.

Pickens told the audience at the town hall-style meeting that he was the only person in America with an energy plan and the country deserved a president who would implement new energy regulations, including requiring all federal vehicles to run only on natural gas or other domestic fuel.

“I look forward to the day that leadership shows up in Washington and tells us how to fix our problem,” Pickens said.

The businessman, founder and chairman of BP Capital Management, has been touting his plan since July. More than 1million people have signed on as supporters, which Pickens says will help get the attention of the next administration.

“If I got 1 million people to go with me to Washington, I can tell you, I’m going to be a lot more effective than I was as a rich guy from Texas,” Pickens said.

Pickens claims his plan would reduce foreign oil imports by 38 percent and would seriously cut down on the $700 billion price tag for foreign oil.

Jennifer Rubino, a 14-year-old Maine South High School student, was one of only a half-dozen attendees who got to participate in the question-and-answer session, out of an estimated 30 who lined up at the microphones.

“I want to do something to do with fuel research or foreign policy or something like this when I grow up,” said Rubino, who asked Pickens his opinions on putting a price floor on barrels of oil.

Pickens charged Chicagoans with getting involved in a problem he said they helped create.

“I want you to join me and I’ll go to the finish line with this,” he said.