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'How long are we going to import oil from the enemy?'

Oil magnate talks to NCEW about energy security

Published Tuesday, September 28, 2010 5:00 pm by Ellen Raff

By Ellen Raff                           

"How long are we going to import oil from the enemy?"
A simple question, according to Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Yet, despite promises made by every presidential candidate since Nixon, we are still a long way from reducing dependence on oil we import from countries our State Department warns us not to visit.
Pickens demonstrated an encyclopedic knowledge of the world's energy use. "We (in the United States) use 21 billion barrels of oil per day. That's 25 percent of the oil (use) with 4 percent of the (world's) population. China uses 10 billion barrels per day with 25 percent of the population ... Now we're starting to move out of Iraq, and guess who got the oil?" he asked the group.
"The Iraqi oil will be developed, and a great deal of it will go to China." This will mean that 70 percent of all the oil in the world will be in the hands of foreign governments.
Oil is not used to generate electric power in the United States, Pickens pointed out, so to reduce use of foreign oil, we must begin converting transportation away from oil. Natural gas is our best alternative. "We have enough natural gas right now to replace all the foreign oil we import, " he said. "If we don't use it, the next generation will brand us fools."
Pickens anticipates HR1835 (the Natural Gas Act) will come up for a vote soon in the U.S. Senate, and he believes it will pass. The bill advocates for a new tax credit to promote the production of more than 350,000 natural gas tractor-trailers, and would give tax credits for the manufacture and purchase of natural gas vehicles.
The Wall Street Journal has criticized the Pickens plan, saying that it would disrupt free markets. "OPEC is not a free market," Pickens said. "Whatever price they want, they get."
Pickens made the surprising recommendation that the United States should not back away from the idea of a state-owned oil company. "Acquire something," he said (naming several U.S. oil companies), "then keep your hands off it."
Although he believes natural gas is our quickest path to energy independence, he also believes we should move forward with wind and solar power. He considers even ethanol, despite its high production cost, a viable domestic alternative. "The security issue is so great in this country, it's more important to get off OPEC oil."
He advised the NCEW audience that they have an important role to play in energy independence. "Put pressure on Obama," he said. "Ask him: When will we have a plan to get off Mideast oil?'"
Regarding the newspaper business, Pickens, 82, said, "What you do, I like, because I'm the old guy who reads the paper. Looks like you've lost the young people. I'm your audience." He admitted he was the wrong person to ask, but before he segued back to his favorite topic -- natural gas -- he shared some wisdom from his father.
"A fool with a plan can beat a genius with no plan."

Ellen Raff is a member of the Dallas Morning News panel of community columnists. She was a guest at the NCEW convention in Dallas and shared her views on engaging with readers.


Ellen Raff photo

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens is on a crusade to move U.S. energy policy away from oil and over to natural gas and alternative energy.


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