T. Boone Pickens has been very active recently. You have probably seen his first series of commercials publicizing his plans (actually his actions) to promptly get the US off of its oil habit addiction. Many of you, myself included, noticed this, but paid little attention to his initial round of ads. He was recently promoting his plan in Las Vegas at a democratic conference. While this news was making its way off of front page news circles, a coworker emailed me an outline of his plan. While reading it the essence of the plan hit me. Yes, the initial series of infomercials touting the widespread availability and value of wind power are what you may be familiar with. The real genius of the plan is that it advocates the use of natural gas in transportation systems to bridge the gap leading up to technological demonstrations of alternatives like biofuel, electric cars, … . It took a while before the full impact of the plan sunk in. The key to any alternative energy source is the time it takes to be adopted and penetrate the market. One of the longest lived infrastructures are buildings (homes and commercial real estate have lifetimes in excess of 50 years). Automobiles, trucks, planes, and trains are a close second at 8-20 years. Pickens’ plan advocates the conversion of the transportation infrastructure from oil to natural gas. Aside from the cleanliness of natural gas relative to oil, the brilliance of this plan lies in the fact that existing vehicles can be converted from oil to natural gas at a minimal cost (relative to the cost of total replacement with hybrids or electrics – not to mention the infrastructure costs). I have had the opportunity to drive dual fuel vehicles that ran on both natural gas and gasoline. There is essentially no difference in convenience or performance. Imagine a tax on gasoline that funds a tax credit that offsets the cost of converting an existing gasoline/diesel vehicle over to natural gas. Both the increased cost of gas along with the rebate to offset the cost of conversion would quickly move us from oil to natural gas for our transportation needs. The US natural gas resources would create internal wealth, decrease significantly our trade deficit, and turn an unstable part of the world into something less important than it currently is. This is just a bridge to our new undefined energy future. It buys us time. It creates jobs and wealth within the US. By reducing our trade deficit, it gives us the capital to develop and deploy the long-lived solutions that are still in development. This is exciting and I am impressed with the plan. Let’s hope the message can be well formulated and spread widely.