More nuclear generation plants are the future of the electricity sector and natural gas should be concentrated on use as a vehicle fuel, according to Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, 78, speaking in a wide-ranging question and answer session published in Monday’s Los Angeles Times. Now heavily into hedge fund investments more than oil patch plays, Pickens is the largest single investor in a natural gas supplier to heavy vehicle fleets of buses, trash trucks and airport shuttles called Clean Energy.

“Natural gas is the best transportation fuel of all, because it’s 90% cleaner than gasoline,” Pickens said in the LA Times. “It’s just a better fuel. It’s used in California…by a lot of fleets, and trash trucks are a great one. Mass transit is another.”

Pickens, a former oil industry geologist from Oklahoma, is the CEO of BP Capital Inc., an investment manager with $4 billion in assets, many in the energy sector. He once made an unsuccessful play for California-based Union Oil more than 20 years ago, and he told the Times that was his last takeover attempt.

In response to questions by the newspaper regarding California’s and the nation’s future energy strategies, Pickens was negative toward liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports into the state, thinks the emphasis on natural gas use for electricity generation is the wrong approach, and prefers more nuclear generation (although he recognizes that will takes long periods of regulatory time). He wants natural gas to become the primary alternative vehicular fuel.

In response to specific rhetorical questions from the Times, Pickens said that if the national goal is to cut down on the increased dependence on energy imports, then emphasizing gas-fired power generation works against us because it will require ever-larger imports of LNG. “We have people complaining about the costs of their electricity,” he said. “It’s expensive because you’re using expensive fuel [natural gas] to generate power.”

As part of the hypothetical questions about if he were “governor” or “energy czar” in California what would he do, Pickens complimented California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for a “good job.” He said Schwarzengger has articulated broadly what he wants in terms of “reductions in carbon,” and then left it to private-sector managers and CEOs for the most part of determine how to achieve the goals.

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