By John Sutter
T. Boone Pickens addressed a crowd of Oklahoma reporters today wearing a charcoal suit and an orange tie. Handlers scurried about to keep him on schedule. Walking into the room he had a certain aura of importance about him.
Then he opened his mouth.
Instantly, the oil tycoon turned alt-energy advocate became just another guy.
"I don't have a handkerchief, so I'll need a napkin--or your tie," he said to one of his minions as they entered. Then, turning to reporters with a smile, he said, "With this wind blowing it really drives me crazy on allergies."
Nice intro to the topic of the day, and the topic of Pickens' year: wind energy. Pickens was scheduled to speak over lunch to a 1,000-person crowd at the Oklahoma Wind Energy Conference in Oklahoma City. (And, in case you've been asleep for six months, he's launched a major PR campaign to promote wind energy and natural gas).
Fielding reporters' questions before that engagement, Pickens slouched back on his heels, held the microphone limp on his chest and kept on hand in his pants pocket.
He took the questions with ease and invented metaphors along the way.
Asked by a television reporter what he thought plunging oil prices meant for wind power, Pickens said he had mixed feelings, "like if I saw my mother-in-law hauled off the edge of a mountain in a Cadillac."
He paused, then added: "I don't have a mother-in-law, so I can say that."
The reporters laughed.
Another asked how Pickens thought the country should deal with its shortage of compressed-natural-gas stations. Pickens channeled Kevin Costner:
"It'll happen over a period of time. The stations will come."
And then, channeling Randy Terrill, said:
"All I'm interested in is that it's American (fuel). Natural gas, battery, I only care if it's American."
(In case you're wondering, he drives a Honda Civic that runs on natural gas.)
Pickens said Oklahoma has more entrepreneurs per capita than any state in the nation. They will be able to figure out solutions to our nation's energy crisis, he said.
But, if the economy has anything to say about it, they may have to wait a bit on their investments. Pickens said he's having trouble getting credit for his wind farms in Texas. He delayed one project a year because of the credit crunch, he said.
He left reporters and investors with a word of advice for tough times: "Don't forget how to eat hamburgers."
3 months ago