T. Boone Pickens, founder and CEO of BP Capital Management, arrives for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on “Energy Security: An American Imperative.” Copyright © 2008 Roll Call Photos
Today, during an interview at the Washington Ideas Forum, billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens was in a playful mood as he discussed energy policy, ranging from oil imports to fracking.
After cracking several jokes about his age, the 86-year-old chairman of BP Capital Management was asked if the U.S. had anything to worry about given the fall of U.S. oil imports, the decrease in oil prices and the cresting of OPEC’s power.
“It’s good news. Remember OPEC peaked. We imported from OPEC over 7 million barrels [per day]. Today, 3.2 [million per day]… No, I don’t see anything to be worried about as to what’s taken place. We are regaining our independence is what it is.”
When pressed on whether the U.S. should be concerned about the effects of low oil prices on the production of non-oil fuels like natural gas, he dismissed the fear as a “high class problem.” He then added that the only way to have an input on gasoline prices is to introduce a new fuel option. He believes that natural gas will replace gasoline and diesel though he would like it to happen on a faster timetable. Pickens then said that if he can get natural gas into 18-wheelers he can wipe out OPEC, referring to the cartel as “the worst thing to happen to our country” and that while right now, we only import 3.2 million bpd, we are using twice as much oil everyday as the second largest consumer, China.
He then lamented the lack of leadership around energy policy in Washington and called for a North American energy alliance between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that could tell the rest of the world to “forget it, we have independence in North America. That’s it.”
Pickens also had some thoughts on the role his industry plays in the American economy.
“The natural gas and oil industry in the United States has done an unbelievable job for America,” he said. After loud enthusiastic clapping from one man several rows below me, he added “They didn’t do it for America. I can tell ya that.” The room erupted in laughter… “You’re out there because you’re trying to make money is what you’re trying to do. Now is that good for America? Of course it is, because of jobs and taxes. But in the mean time, what’d it do for America? It got our independence from OPEC.”
The topic then turned to fracking.
Pickens was unequivocal. “I’d like to dismiss this in 30 seconds. There’s not a problem with fracking.” He then said opponents could not think of one instance of fracking damaging anything. He also accused fracking opponents of being global warming hypers merely spoiling for a fight. This claim did not go over so well with the audience.
The moderator quickly moved on to another subject.