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Natural Gas Takes Center Stage in Las Vegas

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Over a year ago, I launched the Pickens Plan with a single goal in mind: to end America's addiction to foreign oil. It's been a long 13 months, and I'm not saying this because I've spent $60 million of my own money to open people's eyes to this problem. I'm saying this because back on July 8, 2008, we knew how to end this dependence. We had the answers then, and we had them six months later when the new Congress was seated on January 6.

Those answers are finally coming into focus, and I saw so myself on Monday at the National Clean Energy Summit. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has long recognized the perilous consequences of our present energy policy -- make that our lack of an energy policy -- and over the past year he has hosted key leaders from the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors at three different summits. A Who's Who in America RSVPs, and Monday's gathering was no different: Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis were joined by industry leaders such as Dow Corning's Stephanie Burns and Gen. Wesley Clark of Growth Energy. Solar advocates such as John Woolard of BrightSource showed up as did Denise Bode of the American Wind Energy Association. Senator Tim Wirth of the U.N. Foundation served as moderator.

Senator Reid knows that developing an energy policy will not only keep hard-earned American dollars here at home, but it will create jobs and strengthen our economy. That's why he joined Senators Menendez and Hatch to cosponsor the NAT GAS Act in the Senate and encourage the use of natural gas vehicles and the development of refueling infrastructure. His leadership has been crucial, but on Monday it was clear to all that he's not alone.

Al Gore is on board. As everyone knows, our former Vice President has single-handedly committed himself to fighting global warming. In 2007, his considerable efforts were recognized when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This Monday, he endorsed using natural gas instead of diesel as the fuel to power 18-wheelers. That's big news.

Over the last year, Al and I have had plenty of discussions. He would like to see all our vehicles powered by electric batteries, but batteries can't power big trucks. Not yet, at least. Al knows that natural gas is cleaner than diesel and it's American.

"I want to thank Boone Pickens for not giving up on natural gas. Now [it] turns out we've got more than we ever dreamed we did," Bill Clinton said during his remarks.

President Clinton needn't thank me. We should all thank our lucky stars that recent technological advances have made it possible to tap into significant shale gas reserves in the Lower 48. This is a game changer, the ultimate Hail Mary pass. And just like my friend Roger Staubach's long bomb to Drew Pearson in the 1975 playoffs, it comes just as time is running out.

The U.S. trade deficit took a big jump in June, up 4 percent from May to $27 billion. The main culprit? Rising oil prices. Thanks to a spike in crude oil in June, energy-related imports rose to $22.4 billion from $17.7 billion.

We're running out of time, but we're not running out of natural gas. According to the Potential Gas Committee at the Colorado School of Mines, America's natural gas resources have jumped 39 percent over the last two years. You heard me correctly. Our natural gas reserves are actually increasing, not declining. At current production rates, "the current recoverable resource estimate provides enough natural gas to supply the U.S. for the next 90 years."

Our country is blessed with countless resources, but we've overlooked this one for much too long. I'm glad to report that this is finally starting to change.

"A year or so ago I started taking missionary lessons from a group supporting T. Boone Pickens. I've taken the missionary lessons. I've met with him, and I've been converted. I now belong to the Pickens church."

That last comment from Senator Reid got a lot of laughs. The truth is we are all singing from the same songbook. America has more natural gas than Saudi Arabia has oil. But we've got to put it to work for us. The only way that's going to happen is for each of us to call or email our Representatives and Senators and tell them to pass the NAT GAS Act.

P.S. Enjoy this video with highlights from the event.

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