"I've lived through a lot of energy crises in my life. We shouldn't wait for a crisis to act. We should act now. I'm encouraged by the President's focus on natural gas and transportation. But remember, a plan without action isn't a plan, it's a speech. I look forward to seeing how the President and Congress follow through." -- T. Boone Pickens in response to this year's State of the Union address
Since the days of Woodrow Wilson, every U.S. president has delivered at least one State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress. The speech reminds Congress, and the nation, what the country both accomplished and endured over the past year. It also lays out what the president hopes to accomplish over the next year.
Every year, that speech is both lauded and detested, many times by the same groups. There's always something in it that we can all agree with as well as something with which we disapprove. Those with a national platform typically use that platform to add their voice to the chorus discussing the speech.
This year is, of course, no different from others. The talking heads are all discussing various aspects of the speech. Many of whom want it to be more than just another speech. They want a plan of action to see the speech deliver real, tangible results.
Texas oil man turned clean energy evangelist T. Boone Pickens is among the many that saw something in the speech that he believes deserves more than mere lip service. For Mr. Pickens, it was the following part of the speech, where President Obama said of natural gas:
If extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories that use natural gas. I'll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas.
As the founder to the predecessor company and current board member of natural gas refueling station leader Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ:CLNE), these words must have been music to his ears. Pickens has invested countless dollars and hours of his time to turn natural gas into the fuel of our nation's trucking fleet. Because of this, Clean Energy Fuel is building America's Natural Gas Highway, which is a network of truck refueling stations on interstate highways that run coast to coast and border to border.
The problem is that only around 1,700 trucks currently run on cleaner burning natural gas. That's a far cry from the 3.2 million Class 8 trucks currently driving on America's roadways burning upwards of 25 billion gallons of dirty diesel each year. Despite the economic and environmental benefits of switching to natural gas, America's trucking fleets have been slow to make the move. Pickens is among those who believe an act from Congress is all that's needed to spur a real move toward natural gas as the fuel for our nation's trucking fleets.
Because Americans needs action and not another speech, Pickens poignantly says in response to the speech, "but remember, a plan without action isn't a plan, it's a speech. I look forward to seeing how the President and Congress follow through." With the right plan, Pickens and the president are right, we can get our nation off of our addiction to OPEC's oil, while also cleaning up our environment and putting Americans to work. Now, we just need to see some action instead of another dose of words.