Fueling Change for America

T. Boone Pickens talks about his plans to move the country away from oil toward natural gas.

MSNBC TRANSCRIPT:

>>> from the campus of oklahoma state university. nice to see you. the sun is shiepining and we’ve got a great group gathered, including our town hall tonight on campus and streaming live around the world on a battery of websites. we’ll get to that later. but first we begin with a bit more sobering news for already cash-strapped americans. oil prices today topping $106 a barrel, that the highest we’ve seen it in two and a half years. obviously the crisis in the middle east worrying investors and in turn driving up gas prices for everyone in america. a gallon of self-serve regular will now run you $3.61 a gallon. but as you and i well know, there’s too many places in this country where that number is already well above $4 a gallon. it’s why it’s time for all of us to gather up and find a way out of the stranglehold mideast oil and ultimately foreign imports have on our country’s energy policy. the good news, the alternatives already exist, both above the ground and beneath the earth right on our own continent. the bad news, we’re not harvesting either possibilities to their full potential. the jobs that would be created, the money we would recapture, half of our trade deficit, ignored. however, the momentum is building to finally tackle the trillion dollar energy problem once and for all. and our first guest today is one of the catalysts behind that momentum on the campus of osu, a man the president mentioned by name in his big energy speech yesterday. a man who made his money in oil but thinks we need to get off of it. t. boone pickens. he’s a huge proponent of our natural resources and wind power, of upgrading our power grid, of dealing with misaligned incentives that pays people to do the wrong thing rather than the right thing whether it’s in your household or running a utility. mr. pickens is the founder and ceo of bp capital management and it’s a real delight to see you again.

>> thanks, dylan.

>> i notice you’re wearing orange.

>> you know where i am. no, i want to say something about this. this is for you, okay?

>> let me see that bad boy. am i going to get in trouble with the ou crowd? i understand there’s a huge rivalry between osu and ou.

>> no.

>> they like each other?

>> it’s bigger than huge. it’s called bedlam.

>> will you be insulted if i wear it for the interview.

>> no, i’d love it if you did. quick point. we’ve got a great football team this year. we’ve got –

>> do you think you can take ou.

>> we’ve got a great quarterback, brandon williams, and a great receiver, justin blackmon from ardmore and i’m from holyville.

>> what does that have to do with anything?

>> we’re all from oklahoma. we’re all from oklahoma. but just a point. i’m going to predict here today this will be the first year we played in a bcs bowl.

>> and how many years have you made that prediction?

>> this is the first time.

>> okay.

>> you’re a man of your word.

>> i’d bet on you.

>> have you bet on it?

>> not yet.

>>> let’s talk a little bit about the pickens plan. obviously the president referencing you directly yesterday. largely you’re perceived through the lens of natural gas, which is a core component of what you’re talking about, but it’s not really what you’re talking about. you spent $80 million, you invested so much of your life and your resources in this conversation over the past few years. why?

>> the country does not have an energy plan. we’re the only country in the world that doesn’t have an energy plan. we use almost 25% of all the oil proud in the world every day with only 4% of the population. now, you think about that. you use 25% of the oil with 4% of the pop lace. it’s not sustainable. you can’t continue that way. get on your own resources. and we have resources to use. we’ve never had a plan, we must get a plan. you asked me why i did it? somehow it sort of ended up my mission. i had the money to explain the problem, and i worked hard at it. i worked hard at it for three years. and we’re going to have an energy plan. it’s going to happen.

>> talk to us about some of the core aspects of the plan that you advocate beyond natural gas.

>> beyond natural gas?

>> yeah. we’re going to come back for natural gas.

>> okay. i came out in july of ’08 and the renewables were, of course, wind and solar. i put my money up on wind. hasn’t paid off. but that’s okay. i mean i take chances and sometimes i hit and sometimes i miss. i haven’t totally missed on the wind. the wind is going to happen. but you can’t work the wind until you have a higher price for natural gas. because power generation is based off the margin. natural gas is the margin. at $4.50, you cannot finance a wind deal. you’ve got to have $6 natural gas to get in the money on wind.

>> at the end of the day, your view is wind, natural gas and then i understand you also strongly advocate an upgrade to the power grid. we talked about that a lot when we were at the hoover dam last month.

>> sure.

>> what are your thoughts on the power grid in this country?

>> well, if you bring us to a 21st century power grid, you’ll save 20% cost of electricity. we’ve got to do it. i mean we have never been tasked on energy. we just go along, add to and piecemeal, but we’ve always had cheap oil. and cheap oil has gotten us into a lot of problems.

>> you think that’s the reason we’re in libya now?

>> for oil?

>> yeah.

>> no. no, i don’t. i don’t think that’s why we’re in libya.

>> why do you think we’re in libya?

>> i don’t know, but i don’t think it’s for oil. i understand the libyan situation. we don’t like the guy running the place and the people that are after him have been shooting at us in afghanistan and iraq. so i would say what the hell are we doing in libya.

>> i wanted to bring up the president. before we get into it, i want you to take a listen to president obama yesterday at georgetown.

>> more than 150 members of congress from both sides of the aisle produced legislate little providing incentives to use clean-burning natural gas in our vehicles instead of oil. they were even joined by t. boone pickens, a businessman who made his fortune on oil. but who is out there making the simple point that we can’t simply drill our way out of our energy problems.

>> how close are we to a real conversation with the natural gas legislation that’s proposed this week, with the president’s speech this week directly referencing you, and how close do you feel you are in the scope of what you’ve been through the past three years?

>> we’re close. but this is what we’ve worked for. we’ve finally advanced in the congress. he was talking about 150 co-sponsors we had last year for hr- 1835. that bill was never put to the floor for a vote. that bill has been reworked slightly, about the same bill, and it will be entered next week by john sullivan and dan born and john larson and congressman brady, but sullivan and born are both from oklahoma. and good, one’s a democrat, one’s a republican.

>> this is not a left-right issue.

>> no, it’s not. it’s a non-partisan issue. which is great. the president, i think, loves it because this will be big legislation on a non-partisan issue that will pass easily.

>> why natural gas?

>> that’s easy, because we only have one resource that will replace foreign oil, and that’s natural gas. so if you only have one, it’s pretty easy to make a decision.

>> at the end of the day it’s cleaner, it’s cheaper –

>> much cheaper.

>> — it’s more efficient and it’s less taxing on the engines.

>> oh, yeah, you get more life out of the equipment, sure. but cheaper, cleaner, abundant in hours and we’re going to replace dirty foreign. how about that? that’s an easy call.

>> i spoke with an executive yesterday at the epa and i want to listen to what he had to say about can we get it safely out of the ground. take a listen to him.

>> every area is different and haste makes waste, and so you need to be careful about it. i think the future for natural gas is bright. it’s getting us farther and farther away from oil and coal. but the water footprint is just as important as the carbon footprint. and the technology is improving, but there’s a need for oversight and monitoring because there are going to be some impacts on the landscape.

>> can you frac safely?

>> sure, you can. i personally have fracced since 1957 over 3,000 wells. i’ve never had one problem with the aquifer. the aquifer is above 1,000 feet. we worked in the largest aquifer in north america, from north of midland texas to south dakota, we never had a problem. fresh water is above 1,000 feet, you’re down at 10,000 feet. you’ve got two miles of sediments between you and the fresh water. no problem.

>> what can be done to relieve some of the anxiety about it?

>> well, you could go back, and i suggested this in washington the other day. i said — they were talking about tracking the next hundred wells or something. i said so back and look at, say, a thousand wells out of the ’50s, out of the ’60s, out of the ’70s, out of the ’80s, look at the wells and the history of them and see if you’ve ever had a problem. that’s a good place to start. look on the history of what happened after you fracced the wells. but if you want to look at them going forward, it’s fine. i don’t have any fear of it. i don’t think you have a problem.

>> listen, i am pleased to be able to talk to you.

>> thanks.

>> and pleased to be able to enjoy the conversation with you and i’m advocate of the way you roll, sir. i believe you are a patriot and i thank you.

>> thank you. but we’ve had — we’ve logged a lot of time on this subject, we have.

>> yes.

>> and it’s good for america what we’re doing. it is good for america. it has to be done and it has to be done now.

>> i believe it. listen, i look forward to talking with you more about this tonight at the town hall.