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Published: Monday, 12/15/2008

Investor T. Boone Pickens touts energy independence in Toledo

Mike Thaman, chairman and CEO of Owens Corning, left, stands with T. Boone Pickens after signing Mr. Pickens' energy plan during a visit Monday to Owens Corning Headquarters. Mike Thaman, chairman and CEO of Owens Corning, left, stands with T. Boone Pickens after signing Mr. Pickens' energy plan during a visit Monday to Owens Corning Headquarters.

Owens Corning has teamed up with the best known advocate of U.S. energy independence.

This is a big day for Boone, 80-year-old T. Boone Pickens said at OC s global headquarters in downtown Toledo Monday as Chief Executive Mike Thaman announced that the firm has signed on to Mr. Pickens plan to break America s reliance on imported oil.

In exchange for OC s promise to work with him to promote alternative energy sources such as wind and natural gas, Mr. Pickens has agreed to aid OC s campaign to promote home energy efficiency, company officials said. The campaign is a key part of the Toledo firm s strategy to promote sales of attic and wall insulation.

OC is the nation s largest producer of residential insulation.

Mr. Pickens, a well-known investor nationally who has made billions in energy, has traveled the nation and taken out national television ad spots to promote his cause adopted five months ago.

Speaking to OC employees in Toledo and, via a broadcast link, across North America, Europe, and Asia, Mr. Pickens noted that the growing level of oil imports were first addressed by President Richard Nixon in 1970. And although political candidates have repeatedly promised to address the issue, imports have grown from 24 percent of oil nationally 38 years ago to 70 percent today.

That amounts to $200 billion annually at current prices and $700 billion at the $140-a-barrel price that occurred for a time this year.

Mr. Pickens, a geologist who is chairman of BP Capital Management, predicted that within two years prices will return to recent highs. The situation is unacceptable, he said.

Within 10 years, imports could rise to 75 percent of the nation s oil mix and prices to $200 to $300 a barrel, Mr. Pickens predicted.

By 2018, you re not going to have to worry about education and health, he added. You re not going to have the money to do anything. (The problem) has to be fixed and it has to be fixed now.

He noted that President-elect Barack Obama has promised to end dependence on oil from the Middle East in 10 years.

Mr. Pickens advocates use of windmills and solar fields to produce electricity and natural gas, which is in plentiful supply nationally, for motor vehicles.

Rather than concentrate on passenger cars, his plan focuses on providing tax incentives to operators of tractor trailers and commercial fleets to persuade them to switch to trucks that run on natural gas.

Owens Corning s first became interested in Mr. Pickens plan because the Toledo firm is the largest of supplier of fiberglass for windmills.

The chief executive met with Mr. Pickens in Dallas two months ago.

This is a significant new partnership for our company, Mr. Thaman said. It really strengthens our commitment to make the United States and, ultimately countries around the world, more energy efficient.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:gpakulski@theblade.com or 419-724-6082.

Read more in later editions of The Blade or toledoblade.com

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