EAST HARTFORD — - T. Boone Pickens, an oil and natural gas billionaire and financier who has spent more than $50 million promoting natural gas and wind farms, charmed a crowd at Augie and Ray's Drive In before preaching the gospel of alternative sources of energy to dozens of business executives at Goodwin College.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, who invited Pickens to East Hartford, says using natural gas in cars and trucks is a good step while waiting for hydrogen fuel cells to become commercially viable.
The restaurant isn't usually filled with so many men in suits.
But even regulars who had never seen Pickens on TV commercials were pleased to be part of the hubbub.
East Hartford's Phyllis McCabe, a retired cafeteria worker, told Larson to "keep up the good work" as he passed by, shaking hands. "I'm not a political person," she said. She said she was wondering who Pickens was.
East Hartford Mayor Melody Currey studied up on Pickens when she heard he was coming, and was impressed with his dedication to promoting alternative sources of energy.
East Hartford's new firehouse uses both geothermal heating and cooling and a solar hot water heater.
The savings will exceed the upfront cost after three years, she said.
"We can't continue to have the dependence we have on oil," Currey said.
Manny Jainchill, a state government retiree from Glastonbury, attended both the Augie & Ray's glad-handing and Pickens' talk about his vision for wind farms and natural gas.
"The price of oil and gasoline is going to skyrocket eventually when the economy turns around," he said. "We haven't changed our habits much."
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