Here’s one potential big deal in the president’s State of the Union speech: A Nixon-goes-to-China on energy issues.

A senior White House aide I spoke to over the weekend says the president will focus on new energy technologies, which means alternatives to oil production. The aide cited a Fortune article touting energy alternatives. He also noted how Richard Rainwater, once Bush’s Texas Rangers’ partner, now champions the peak-oil theory. That’s the line of thought that says the world’s hit its top production capacity for oil. From here on out, oil’s downhill.

I haven’t had time to run down Rainwater’s beliefs, but, if this is true, that’s a huge shift. Rainwater had bet heavily on oil when it was selling at low prices. He looked crazy, but he was considering how demand was growing in China and the Far East. It turns out he was right, which makes his voice on peak oil particularly significant.

It will be even more big-time if Bush starts getting religion on energy alternatives. A Texas oilman who gets behind them could outdo a red-baiter like Nixon going to Peking.