T. Boone Pickens on US Energy Independence


T. Boone Pickens is a legendary figure in the business world who is also known to millions of Americans for his “Pickens Plan,” an energy policy aimed at reducing America’s addiction to foreign oil.

Known as the “Oracle of Oil” because of his uncanny ability to predict the direction of fuel prices, he founded Mesa Petroleum, one of the largest independent oil companies in the United States, from a $2,500 investment. Pickens also became highly successful in the 1980s by offering unsolicited buyouts to undervalued oil companies. Pickens’s actions during this time transformed the oil industry. 

Pickens documented his trials and tribulations (along with his seemingly improbable comebacks) in his New York Times bestseller, The First Billion Is the Hardest: Reflections on a Life of Comebacks and America's Energy Future. After leaving Mesa, Pickens went through a painful divorce, experienced clinical depression and saw the loss of 90 percent of his investing capital. But Pickens staged a remarkable comeback, turning his investment fund’s remaining $3 million into $8 billion in profit in just a few years. That made him, at age seventy-seven, the world’s second-highest-paid hedge fund manager. Among the energy bets Pickens has made: America’s cars will eventually run on natural gas.

In July 2008, Pickens launched an $82 million national advertising campaign to promote the “Pickens Plan.” He appeared in TV and in print advertisements, before Congress, and at town hall meetings across the country, bluntly telling Americans: “I’ve been an oilman my whole life, but this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.”

Pickens is also one of the foremost advocates of a comprehensive energy plan for America, one that incorporates alternative energy solutions. It is an initiative that many believe is equally significant to Al Gore’s global warming awareness campaign.


  • Transcript


T. Boone Pickens: You’re stuck with oil and natural gas I’d say for at least 20 or 30 years and, now, what do you go to, to get away from fossil fuels?  Probably you’re going to go to the battery, but a battery won’t move an 18-wheeler.  The only thing that moves an 18-wheeler today is either diesel or natural gas.  

You’ve got the renewables.  You've got the wind and the solar.  Will they work?  Of course they'll work.  They’re expensive though.  So, you’re going to have to be willing to subsidize the renewables to get to where you want to go or just wait.  Just wait and let the hydrocarbons get high enough that you’ll start to bring the renewables in because you’ll come in range as to their cost.  But, some people get in a rush and they talk about taking all the power generation plants out and replacing them with wind and solar.  Well, that isn’t even realistic.  I mean, the cost would be insurmountable, so let’s don’t even go there on that.

But young people should focus on energy.  Great opportunities.  So many places in the spectrum that they could fit in with whatever they most want to be involved in.  If they want to be involved as engineers or geologists or something, there is still a good place for them in the oil and gas business, but if they want to go renewables, that opportunity is there, but it’s going to be slow and it's going to be slow to make money until the price of oil and gas get higher and then that forces the renewables into the market.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd