Charlie Riedel, Associated Press
Oil and gas developer T. Boone Pickens addresses a town hall meeting on energy independence July 30 in Topeka, Kan.

A group of Utahns fed up with rising energy prices and what they perceive as lack of direction from the federal government regarding the nation's energy policy is taking a proactive approach toward the current energy crisis.

The Utah chapter of the Pickens Plan held its first meeting Thursday evening at the state Capitol. The group, whose Web site says it has 124 members, advocates an energy policy proposal introduced last month by billionaire Oklahoma businessman T. Boone Pickens, who made much of his fortune producing oil. The plan promotes alternatives to oil, including natural gas, wind and solar power.

The popularity of the Pickens Plan has grown to include dozens of chapters in states across the country, including Utah.

"We're going to have a new president, whoever it may be, in January," said Utah chapter spokesman John Purvis. "Let's get ready to step up to the plate and propose a plan that maybe he's not going to be able to argue with."

A major feature of the plan is replacing the 22 percent of electricity that the United States gets from natural gas with wind energy, which would allow that natural gas to provide 38 percent of the nation's fuel for transportation and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

According to the group's Web site, building new wind-generation facilities and better utilizing the nation's natural gas resources can replace more than one-third of the United States' foreign oil imports in 10 years.

Purvis noted that the proposal stressed converting more vehicles to natural gas and focusing more attention on developing wind power.

The Pickens Plan also urges the United States to utilize its wind corridor that stretches through the middle of the nation, from Texas through the Great Plains to the Canadian border. The plan has received support from environmental groups, including the Sierra Club.

The Pickens Plan is "a bridge to the future — a blueprint to reduce foreign oil dependence by harnessing domestic energy alternatives, and buy us time to develop even greater new technologies," states the group's Web site.

"Wind and compressed natural gas are two great alternatives and we need to pursue them," said Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights. "The Pickens Plan is fabulous and a rifle approach rather than a shotgun approach is probably the right way to do it."

Purvis said his group would like to see Utah leaders work toward developing a state energy plan that mirrors the national scope of the Pickens Plan. He said his group has contacted the governor's office to express its views and discuss Utah's energy future.

"Our office is very excited about the Pickens approach because it fulfills one of the things we explain to most everyone we talk to and that is the importance of diversity in our energy portfolio," said Ron Daniels with the Governor's Energy Advisor's office. He said the state is looking at various sources of energy, including wind, solar, natural gas and even oil shale and tar sands as possible components of its future energy portfolio.

"There's lots of things that we look at," Daniels said. "We like diversity and would like to see energy be environmentally responsible."


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