Monday, January 7, 2013

T. Boone Pickens Holds Forth at AMS

The 2013 annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in
Austin kicked off with an interview of T. Boone Pickens, the famous Texas oil
billionaire and Swift Boater.

I'd seen Pickens before on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and he
appeared to be a big booster of wind energy. The energetic 84-year-old
is funny, self-deprecating, and passionate about energy, but he
certainly is no knee-jerk liberal, so some of his message is hard to
take for the likes of moi. But you have to give credit to a guy who
grew up poor in Oklahoma during the Depression, eked out a college
degree, and started his own oil business. He even tweets. He chafes at
the idea that as a super-richie he hasn't paid his fair share of

Boone's pet project is his energy plan, called the Pickens Plan, which
he introduced in 2008. He notes that all major countries in the world
have energy plans, except the United States. As we all know, America
with 4% of the population uses 20% of the world's oil production (90
million barrels/day). Pickens criticized American presidents dating
back to Nixon for harping on "energy independence" while doing nothing
to achieve it. Pickens worried that the U.S. had reached its limits on
production in the late 1980s, but notes that recent improvements
(especially horizontal drilling) have let us stay abreast of the 1980s

A bright spot is that most of the new oil discovery has returned to
the U.S. and North America, so Pickens advocates a North American
alliance as the best way to assure our supply. He also favors clean
energy ("who wouldn't?"), as long as it is profitable. For
example, converting all the big diesel trucks to natural gas is a
win-win. Right now, he says, wind energy is just not competitive, and
it's still not feasible to replace 90 million barrels of oil and coal
with today's solar and wind. He still supports the safety of nuclear
energy, citing a recent report saying they just need to stop building
plants over fault lines and on the ocean.

Pickens believes in the evidence for human-caused climate change,
so wants to do what he can to reduce the impacts or to ameliorate
them. Pickens didn't seem totally in command of his scientific facts
("we shouldn't be putting pollutants in the ozone"), but at least he
is heading in the right direction.

A question from the audience came regarding the safety of natural gas
fracking. Boone believes it is safe when the bores are concrete lined,
as is being done now in the 800,000 wells in the Ogallala
Aquifer. That's a lot of wells already.

Pickens says he includes the services of a weather forecaster for his
weekly analysis and projections. Sounds about right. If it's going to
be cold this week, we're going to buy more oil. Asked what AMS members
could do for him, Pickens stated he has had to
learn a lot about other people's businesses, and asked them to do the
same for his. If you want to get on his train and ride, you can join up
at his site.

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