Energy billionaire T. Boone Pickens on Wednesday lashed out at recent U.S. oil import levels and urged Congress to reduce the nation’s foreign oil dependency.

Pickens wants Congress to provide more incentives for the use of natural gas in long-haul trucking and other transportation sectors as a means of strengthening national security. He lamented the impact of recent soaring oil prices in widening the nation’s trade deficit despite record export levels.

Citing the most recent Commerce Department statistics, Pickens said the nation’s trade gap rose 6% to $48.2 billion in March, the biggest it has been since June 2010. While sales abroad climbed to their highest level in 17 years, crude oil surging above $100/bbl and a 9.4% drop in the dollar keep driving up the cost of imports in the United States, he said.

“April’s oil import numbers are the highest we have ever seen, and the implications are disturbing,” said Pickens, calling the statistics a national security threat of the highest order and alleging that oil imports are “subsidizing terrorism.”

In a theme he repeats regularly, Pickens said the only way the United States can begin reducing its dependence on OPEC oil is to tap growing domestic resources, including natural gas. He said the Obama administration has recognized this, and he urged Congress to pass legislation encouraging natural gas use for heavy-duty vehicles.

“We have an enormous supply of domestic natural gas that can replace OPEC oil today,” Pickens said. “Natural gas is cleaner, cheaper, abundant and it’s ours. Ultimately, this effort will enhance national security, create American jobs and improve our economy and environment.”

Pickens is supporting the proposed NAT GAS Act (HR 1380), which was introduced earlier this year by Reps. John Sullivan (R-OK), Dan Boren (D-OK), John Larson (D-CT) and Kevin Brady (R-TX) (see Daily GPI, April 21).

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