Spend a few minutes listening to legendary Texas oilman and gas executive T. Boone Pickens speak about our current energy crisis, and its inevitable that you will feel an urgent call to action. The facts are staggering. Consider that:
In 1970 we imported 24 percent of our oil
By 1990 it was 42 percent
Today, it is almost 70 percent and climbing every minute
Over $700 billion is leaving the U.S. to foreign nations every year (an estimated four times the cost of the Iraqi war)
The United States, which houses just four percent of the worlds population, uses 25 percent of the worlds oil demand
Early in his career, Pickens was one of the first independent oilmen to grow his company, Mesa Petroleum, by acquisitions rather than simply by exploration. Before the age of 40, Pickens led Mesas first big acquisition, the Hugoton Production Company, which was 30 times the size of Mesa. He spent much of the 1980s targeting undervalued companies, making buyout bids and carrying out other mergers and acquisitions. His most publicized deals included attempted buyouts of Cities Service, Gulf Oil, Phillips Petroleum, and Unocal.
Today, as chairman and CEO of BP Capital Management and with an estimated current net worth of $2.5 billion, Pickens is ranked by Forbes as the 131st richest person in United States. It might seem ironic, then, that he is now implementing the Pickens Plan (www.pickensplan.com), his proposed solution to our energy crisis and growing dependence on foreign oil.
We caught up with Pickens in mid-July, while he was in town attending opening day at the Del Mar Racetrack, to ask him a few questions about his plan.
Your recent appearances in television ads as well as interviews on cable news channels have likely left the American public wondering why an oil tycoon would switch gears and advocate for alternative sources of energy. Do you see your proposed plan as the only way out of our current situation?
Ive drilled more dry holes and also found more oil than just about anyone in the industry. With all my experience, Ive never been as worried about our energy security as I am now. Like many of us, I ignored what was happening. Now our country faces what I believe is the most serious situation since World War II.
Why is our dependence on foreign oil such a danger to our country?
Our economic engine is now 70 percent dependent on the energy resources of other countries, their good judgment, and most importantly, their good will toward us. Foreign oil is at the intersection of Americas three most important issues: the economy, the environment, and our national security. We need an energy plan that maps out how were going to work our way out of this mess. I think I have such a plan.
How will it work?
Well start with wind power. Wind is 100 percent domestic, it is 100 percent renewable, and it is 100 percent clean. Did you know that the midsection of this country, that stretch of land that starts in West Texas and reaches all the way up to the border with Canada, is called the Saudi Arabia of the Wind? It gets that name because we have the greatest wind reserves in the world. In 2008, the Department of Energy issued a study that stated that the U.S. has the capacity to generate20 percent of its electricity supply from wind by 2030. I think we can do this or even more, but we must do it quicker.
So what is your expected timeframe for the first phase of your plan?
I believe my plan can be accomplished within ten years if this country takes decisive and bold steps immediately. This plan dramatically reduces our dependence on foreign oil and lowers the cost of transportation. It invests in the heartland, creating thousands of new jobs. It substantially reduces Americas carbon footprint and uses existing, proven technology. It will be accomplished solely through private investment with no new consumer or corporate taxes or government regulation. It will build a bridge to the future, giving us the time to develop new technologies.
It seems that you and Al Gore share a similar goal. How helpful will his influence be on green/renewable energy?
Al Gore is focused on solving the global warming program, and Im focused on solving the $700 billion foreign oil problem. We probably agree on 90 percent of the things. Ive talked to him. Hes committed, and so am I. One issue we agree on is the need to step up the leadership if were going to solve anything. We both think our respective problems can be solved in ten years, and there have been some naysayers who believe it will take 20 or 30 years to solve it all. That cant happen. We need a plan, we need leadership, and we need action. My dad used to tell me a fool with a plan can beat a genius with no plan any day. The problem is, were a fool stumbling around with no plan. That has to end.
Weve heard you say: Its got to be the top priority of the next president and the next Congress. How do we get there from here?
The future begins as soon as Congress and the president act. The government must mandate the formation of wind and solar transmission corridors, and renew the subsidies for economic and alternative energy development in areas where the wind and sun are abundant. I am also calling for a monthly progress report on the reduction in foreign oil imports, as well as a monthly progress report on the state of development of natural gas vehicles in this country. We have a golden opportunity in this election year to form bipartisan support for this plan. We have the grit and fortitude to shoulder the responsibility of change when our countrys future is at stake, as Americans have proven repeatedly throughout this nations history. We need action. Now. MIA STEFANKO