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The Associated Press April 20, 2011, 4:33PM ET

Energy magnate Pickens defends drilling method

Billionaire energy magnate T. Boone Pickens on Wednesday defended a controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, a day after President Barack Obama expressed concern that the process could pollute groundwater.

"That's the first time I ever heard him saying anything about fracking," Pickens said of the drilling method that uses water, sand and other additives to free natural gas underground. "The president, I'm sure, knows very little about fracking. So he's trying to be, I think, cautious in responding to it saying, 'of course we want natural gas, but ... we want to be sure we're safe."

On Tuesday, President Obama told a crowd gathered at a town hall meeting that if the U.S. continues using the method, it must make sure it won't poison people.

Pickens, who spoke Wednesday at the 2011 Sustainable Enterprise Conference in Tulsa, said out of the 800,000 wells that have been fracked in the Southwest, he didn't know of a single lawsuit or complaint that arose from the process.

"I've fracked over 3,000 wells myself; they fracked on my ranch yesterday," Pickens said during a news conference following his speech. "I guess (Obama) feels like he has to say something about it."

Pickens is the author of the Pickens Plan, which sets out alternative energy resources, such as natural gas and wind power, to break U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

He has amassed more than 200 co-sponsors in Congress on legislation that would convert 8 million 18-wheel trucks from diesel fuel to natural gas -- which would slash up 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, or about half of what the U.S. imports from OPEC.

"It's a nonpartisan issue," said Pickens, who expects the bill to get more than 300 votes in the House. "I think it's going to get out of committee and go pretty fast. It will be law before the year is out."

Pickens said he approved of the job Obama was doing and predicted that the president "is going to be for our energy plan."

"If we don't capitalize on natural gas, I promise you we're going to go down as the dumbest group that ever came into town," Pickens said.

In addition to Pickens, environmental attorney Robert Kennedy Jr. also spoke about investing in other energy resources, and singled out the coal industry for creating a "science-fiction nightmare" where water and air are both polluted.

Kennedy cited several nations, such as Sweden, Brazil and Costa Rica, that have de-carbonized all or in part, and experienced massive growth after making the switch to other forms of energy.

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