The stock market had opened down nearly 800 points Friday morning, then bounced back by 500, and T. Boone Pickens paused from describing his big idea for U.S. energy independence to tend to his investments.
"Have you done anything on equities?" Pickens asked an aide monitoring his portfolio.
Pickens instructed the aide not to do anything rash. Then, as quickly as any 80-year-old man can move, Pickens jumped back to the topic of America's energy future.
"If John McCain gets 1 million extra barrels out of drilling on the outer continental shelf, that is like Obama's 1 million hybrid cars," Pickens said. The similarity: Neither would make a dent in the U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Pickens warns against the political and economic costs of buying $500 billion in foreign oil each year. The number used to be $700 billion, but $80-a-barrel oil has cut that.
This is the way it goes with Pickens' quest. World events keep interrupting his effort to get the U.S. to kick its oil habit. It's hard to hold the spotlight when the world financial system is melting down and a steep drop in oil prices is easing the public alarm about energy costs.
Pickens will soldier on, though, at a town-hall-style meeting at Navy Pier on Tuesday.