Boone Pickens likes to call it a "game changer," and the game he has in mind is a big one: the game for our global energy security. Boone is the billionaire Texas oilman who years ago warned that the price of oil will continue to go up, price plateau by price plateau -- each plateau being higher and more expensive for the American consumer. Sure, the price of oil will dip from its highs, but then it will go up again to a higher plateau. As the years pass, the price of oil has been climbing and will continue to climb. That is because the supply of oil is finite, and the demand is always growing. Worse, the United States, which uses 25 percent of the world's oil with only 4 percent of the world's population, has only 3 percent of the world's reserves, and that is being exhausted. We now depend on foreign oil for almost 70 percent of our oil needs. Our suppliers are countries such as Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Russia, which is to say, countries that are unfriendly or unstable or both.
What is Boone's "game changer"? It is the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions, or NAT GAS, Act of 2009, which now has bipartisan support in both houses of Congress (S. 1408 in the Senate and H.R. 1835 in the House). Boone's Pickens Plan, inaugurated a year ago for energy independence, advocates all forms of energy production, including wind and solar, but the alternative to oil that he now stresses most is natural gas. There have been breakthroughs in natural gas that make it extremely economical and clean.
In the past few years, natural gas has been found in abundance in the United States. In fact, we have 2,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, mostly in Appalachia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas -- more than twice the amount of Saudi oil, enough to last us 100 years. Recent innovations make it cleaner to burn and cheaper to use. It is the only fuel that can replace diesel in semis and other heavy-duty vehicles. Battery power will not work on these behemoths, and neither will ethanol.