On a pleasant Thursday afternoon Seven Years Later, proof that America is as capitalistic and robust and feisty as ever — maybe feistier — strode to the podium in the person of one T. Boone Pickens. Former oil man.

Almost 2,000 people filled the chairs in conference room 255 of the Salt Palace, where Pickens, of Dallas, aka "The Energy Evangelist," spoke of his "Pickens Plan" — an energy strategy designed to once and for all end America's dependence on foreign oil.

The effects of $4-a-gallon gasoline filled the seats. Americans of all descriptions streamed into the hall, some in suits, some in dresses, some in shorts, some carrying canes, some just getting off work, some looking for work.

Many had been lured to the downtown meeting by a computerized telephone message sent this week from The Pickens Plan. This included Mike Sullivan of Magna and his wife, Marry Higgins. They were called twice.

"I don't know why they picked us," said Mary. "Must think we're rich or something."

T. Boone sure is. The 117th richest man in America, according to Forbes, worth $3 billion — less the $58 million he's reportedly spending to spread the word about the plan named after him. Salt Lake City is just one of several cities earmarked for a "town meeting" to energize grass-roots enthusiasm.

The Pickens Plan is simple enough — switch from oil to wind power and natural gas, both of which America has plenty.

Do that, and the $700 billion we send to other countries for oil — every year — stays home.

Few can argue against that kind of logic, although what's not as clear is where that $700 billion will end up instead.

Some people handing out anti-T. Boone fliers outside the Salt Palace suggested the biggest winner in the Pickens Plan will be ol' T. Boone.

Their fliers suggested that his CNG (clean natural gas) company, Clean Energy, is hard at work cornering the market of CNG distribution and driving the price up while we (and T. Boone) speak.

"The Pickens Plan is great," said Steve Roll, who works for a local company that converts fuel tanks from fossil fuel to CNG. "But can we afford it in Utah?"

One who seemed to vote yes Thursday was Jon Huntsman Jr., Utah's governor and himself a driver of a CNG car, who enthusiastically introduced T. Boone to the crowd.

"I say, hip, hip, hooray," said the governor as he gave it up for T. Boone Pickens, encouraging those in attendance to "take notes and listen very carefully."

Whether you think that's a bit odd — having a governor introduce and at least tacitly endorse a private businessman — and whatever you think about nearly 2,000 people coming downtown on a Thursday afternoon to hear that businessman speak, there was no question that it happened.

Seven years after a 9/11 no one wants to remember, but no one can forget, it was a 9/11 of Americans doing what Americans do — assembling, planning for a better future and trying to make a dollar in the process.

Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. Still, somebody ought to keep an eye on ol' T. Boone.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.