If T. Boone Pickens could choose between his current circumstances and being an 18-year-old preparing to enter the job market, he would choose the latter — and he might send his first résumés to energy companies.
The oil and gas entrepreneur, who served as the keynote speaker at First Foundation Bank's 21st Economic and Market Update on Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, said with the economy continuing to struggle, now is as good a time as ever to reduce America's dependency on foreign oil. And if he had to trade in his wealth and private plane to be a young go-getter, he'd do just that.
"We've got resources in America we can get on," Pickens said in a question-and-answer session with the audience and moderator James Doti, president of Chapman University. "We've got oil. We've got the cheapest natural gas in the world."
For years, Pickens said he's heard incoming presidents say they want to make America more energy-independent, but he has yet to see the White House take the proper leadership on the matter — and he'd love to see a president create an official energy plan and stick to it.
Pickens, the founder of BP Capital, has long been an activist for homegrown and sustainable energy sources. Most of his remarks Wednesday centered around that issue, although he also touched on corporate governance and the upcoming presidential election, in which, he said, he would support "any Republican" against President Barack Obama.
With the country mired in an economic slump, the turnout for the 2012 election should be huge, Pickens said.
"This is going to be an unbelievable election for getting the votes out," he said.
At the luncheon, which more than 900 guests attended, First Foundation executives also provided an analysis of the economy and its recent downturn.
The last recession, they said, was the longest since the Great Depression and featured the largest decline in real GDP — although the drop was still substantially lower, at 5.1% compared to 26.7%.
Rick Keller, chairman of the board for the Irvine-based bank, said there were some encouraging signs in the economy, as better-than-expected growth numbers helped avert a double-dip recession.
He encouraged homeowners, though, to count on the market being slow for a while longer.
"Wherever your home is, it's probably going to remain soft," Keller said. "Think of it as a home and not an investment."