He’s not an oilman, he just played one on TV

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Larry Hagman is best known for roles in I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970) and Dallas (1978-1991). Today, however, the 75-year-old actor is making a new name for himself as an environmentalist.

He said he became interested in alternative energy after a 2003 blackout knocked out power to millions in the Midwest, Northeast and parts of Canada. He converted his home to solar power and switched vehicles.

Earlier this week, the Fort Worth-born Hagman made an appearance at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in San Antonio, where he urged support for alternative energy sources.

In an interview with the Chronicle at the event, Hagman, who now lives in Ojai, Calif., took a few minutes to share his thoughts on the importance of going green.

Q: How did you get from taking the first step of solarizing your home to becoming a backer of biofuels?

A: It got me interested in all sorts of renewable energy.

I looked into ethanol, biodiesel, wind power. They all are going to have to contribute to our survival because when the end of oil comes, it’s the end of the ballgame as we know it.

Then everybody says, “Well, we’ve got coal.” But coal pollutes so badly that it’s going to kill us quicker than probably anything.

Q: Are you so much of a believer that you only drive on alternative fuels?

A: No. I drive a Prius. We have five Priuses in the family, and it’s too bad that America, with its innovative genius, didn’t come up with something better than that. But they haven’t yet. And General Motors and Ford and those guys are paying for it.

Q: Does it catch people off guard when they hear J.R. Ewing, the iconic Texas oil baron, talking about environmental issues?

A: It does sometimes. But that’s their problem. There’s no kidding around about it. The end of civilization is coming unless we can find something to do about it now.

Q: Biodiesel now represents a fraction of total U.S. diesel fuel consump-
tion, but what do you think its potential is in coming years?

A: They gotta do it. We have to do it. And we’ve got to have a legislature that supports that. Petroleum has had all kinds of depletion allowances and yearly backing by the government. They have to do it with biodiesel, too. And ethanol. And wind power. When I put solar into my household, it cost me $725,000, which I borrowed. I figure it will pay for itself in five years, then I’ll have free electricity.

Q: At one point, did this go from a curiosity to a major issue with you?

A: When I realized that I couldn’t grow anything unless I had water. And I couldn’t get water from 410 feet below the ground unless I had electricity. Where we live, it’s kind of iffy anyhow. It goes out once a week. That’s why I put in the first solar array, to get water up to the storage tanks and water down to my crops. Crops! I have avocados.

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