Transcript: T. Boone Pickens, his plan for renewable energy. 28 July 2008
T. Boone Pickens, the oil man, entrepreneur, and now wind power proponent about his plan. He's building a massive wind farm in Texas and wants some help from the government.
Thom Hartmann interviews T. Boone Pickens, 28 July 2008
[Thom Hartmann]: On the line with us right now, T. Boone Pickens, the oil man, entrepreneur, and now wind power proponent; his web site boonepickens.com. Mr. Pickens, welcome to the program.
[T. Boone Pickens]: Good. Thanks, Thom.
[Thom Hartmann]: Glad to have you with us. You have this plan that you've been promoting in your relatively ubiquitous now television ads and some radio ads around to build this, well, you're in the process of building this massive wind farm in Texas and basically running the whole country in that direction and converting our auto fleet over to natural gas. Do I have that right?
[T. Boone Pickens]: You've got it.
[Thom Hartmann]: Okay. First of all, in order to build out wind power across the center of the country what's, what do you need from we the people? What do you need from the government in terms of, you know, commons infrastructure: transmission lines, stuff like that?
[T. Boone Pickens]: Well, that's a fabulous, you know, resource that the country has, and you can build really all the wind you want in there. I'm proposing 200,000 megawatts but you could go to 400,000, but what you, or 600 or 800, whatever you want. But what you need is a modern grid and you need to get the transmission, you need to transmit the wind energy out of that wind corridor to the East and West coast. So Congress, the people are going to have to put the pressure on Congress to declare an emergency and give those corridors out quickly. The reason it has to be done very fast is because you're spending $700 billion dollars a year on foreign oil. And that's 70 percent of all the oil that we use every day.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, but only 16 percent of that foreign oil is coming from the Middle East; most of it's coming from Mexico and Canada, it's not...
[T. Boone Pickens]: Well, wait a minute, hold it on that one. It's 1,800,000 barrels is coming from Canada, yes, but it's 38% of the oil that we're importing comes from the Mid East and Africa which are the unstable areas. But don't count on Mexico much further because their largest field, Cantarell, is declining about 25% a year.
[Thom Hartmann]: It's flattening out. Yeah. I know. It's flattening out. So, I don't disagree with you that we need to get off foreign oil and, frankly, that we need to get off oil. We need to get off carbon-based fuels. Why, I was in Denmark a couple of months ago, we did our show from there for a week and we had a couple of members of parliament on and we had a guy from Vestas, their big wind power company. You know, they're making turbines now in Colorado. And they, in that country, are, 19% of their electricity is now generated by wind and their goal is 30% within the next five years.
And what they're doing is they're building out an infrastructure within the country for electric cars, plug-in hybrid electric cars that get 150 miles to the gallon, basically, because they mostly run on electricity. And during the night when the wind power is a surplus everybody's car plugged into the grid becomes a giant storage battery, you know, a 5 million person storage battery. And during the day when people drive their car to work and then they plug back in at work, those cars then sell that electricity back into the grid. And you can actually, if you're buying off the grid at night, you're buying off the grid at say two cents a kilowatt hour, if you're selling back to the grid during the day you're selling back at four cents a kilowatt hour, you're actually making a profit with your car and the cars become part of the grid and it, you know, it deals with that problem of storage of electricity overnight. Why not do something like that rather than try to convert all of our cars to natural gas?
[T. Boone Pickens]: You know, I'm not converting any car to natural gas, I'm only talking about the government on all new purchases of cars natural gas, and the police would be natural gas. ??? my car. I'm for the electrical grid and the battery and all, but I don't think you can get to the numbers that we have to get to to reduce the 700 billion dollars with an electric car, that you can put enough of them online. And so my point is to take the natural gas, use it for transportation fuel for a twenty year period and by that time you will have the grid set up and all and you can go with electrical cars.
[Thom Hartmann]: Well, if we're declaring a national emergency, I mean, look at how quickly we went from General Motors and Chrysler and Ford and Dodge and all the companies at the time in 1940s went from making cars to making tanks. I mean, it took about two months.
[T. Boone Pickens]: That's all, and I tell you that ??? General Motors makes no natural gas vehicles in the United States but make 19 of them out of the country, in South America and Europe.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right. Yeah.
[T. Boone Pickens]: ... you've got eight million natural gas vehicles in the world and we only have 142,000 of them in the United States.
[Thom Hartmann]: Well and my point was they could just as easily be making electric vehicles. I mean, if we were to say, 'okay, its an emergency', and even mandate that the car companies had to do it, give them some sort of a floor so that they're not taking a huge risk. And say, you know, 'we are going to have hybrid electric vehicles'. They could be hybrid natural gas and electric vehicles, but they're...
[T. Boone Pickens]: All that's a good idea but let's ??? the trucks. So the police have to be on natural gas.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, I agree with you on that.
[T. Boone Pickens]: Yeah, you've got to work them together, is what happens.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, you're right about the police.
[T. Boone Pickens]: We've got to get off of the foreign oil.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, absolutely. Coal. We're burning an awful lot of coal in the United States. Why not use a lot of that, if we were to put more emphasis on electric in the direction of passenger vehicles, passenger cars and try to move the natural gas into replacing coal fired power plants with natural gas fired power plants. Why not do that, over, as a transition?
[T. Boone Pickens]: Well, you could do it, I mean it's gonna take a great amount of time, but here now, power generation's 50% on coal.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right, my point.
[T. Boone Pickens]: So if you're gonna switch, if you switched all the coal over to natural gas, natural gas is doing 22% of the power generation. It's the most expensive of all that you've got, is the natural gas.
[Thom Hartmann]: But it's cleanest.
[T. Boone Pickens]: Oh, no question it's cleaner, but let me tell that when you're out raising that price, you get a lot of complaints from the consumer.
[Thom Hartmann]: But see the problem is that it may not be actually the most expensive, because the cost of coal isn't just the cost of the coal; it's the cost of all the people who get asthma and lung cancers and, you know...
[T. Boone Pickens]: Yeah, but it's hard to tell the guy that's getting the bill every month, that hey, look, you're better off with natural gas than you are with coal.
[Thom Hartmann]: I mean, it's the coal that's driving all that mercury into the atmosphere.
[T. Boone Pickens]: I know, but the people, when they, when it gets down to dollars, I can promise you that I can remember when I was trying to sell natural gas as a transportation fuel; I said it's cleaner, it's cheaper, it's domestic and I said you you've got to, you know, you've got to take all that into consideration. They didn't take anything into consideration except how cheap was it.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right.
[T. Boone Pickens]: That was it.
[Thom Hartmann]: Well, that tends to be people's bottom line just like with taxes and everything else. What are you looking for from Congress? You said we need to declare an emergency. What kind of money is going to be attached to this, and also, why not do like the Germans are doing where they're helping people, you've got about 30% of the houses now in Germany have solar panels on their roofs and people are producing 20, 30 40, in some cases even 100% of electricity for their own homes with this program. Why not have more electric as well?
[T. Boone Pickens]: Well you know, what they're doing on that, though, is they're subsidizing it. But that's fine with me, I'm ready to go solar. Listen, I'm for everything American. And I'm kind of, you know, I'm green, but I'm more interested in reducing the dependency on foreign oil, and so anything, you know, like ethanol.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah.
[T. Boone Pickens]: That's not a good fuel there's no question it isn't, but it beats foreign oil.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah.
[T. Boone Pickens]: So I'd pick anything before I'd use foreign oil.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah I, it's an excellent point, it's one that resonates, I think, right across the political spectrum. We're talking with T. Boone Pickens. We've got a minute or so left here, and I know you've got to run. What do we, what are you asking of Congress in terms of specifics?
[T. Boone Pickens]: OK, they need to extend the production tax credit which is already in existence, but they extend it year after year for one year at a time.
[Thom Hartmann]: For natural gas.
[T. Boone Pickens]: Yes. No, no, production tax credit on the wind.
[Thom Hartmann]: I see.
[T. Boone Pickens]: And just go ahead, and that's wind and solar. And do that. They don't need to do anything for natural gas.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yes.
[T. Boone Pickens]: Natural gas has what they need. You can do all of this unbelievably cheap for the government.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, so simply extending the production tax credit which would give people who are investing in this an incentive to continue doing so?
[T. Boone Pickens]: Yeah, right, you've got to do that if you want to hurry up the process. But second, you're gonna have to give those transmission corridors to move that power out of the central part of the United States to the coast.
[Thom Hartmann]: Right, and what about the decentralization of this? I mean, what about individual home owners?
[T. Boone Pickens]: Home owners on what?
[Thom Hartmann]: Being able to generate their own wind or electric power.
[T. Boone Pickens]: Oh, I love it; I think that's good stuff.
[Thom Hartmann]: OK, so you would embrace the German model for doing that.
[T. Boone Pickens]: I would, and you haven't said anything about it, but I'm also for drilling in the outer continental shelf.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah, I know you are.
[T. Boone Pickens]: Well I am, and ANWR. Listen, I want anything that's going to reduce that foreign oil.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah. I understand. I understand. And, you know, we can agree to disagree on that one but, you know, I get your point and if you can make some money doing it and it's the best thing for the country, I'm all in favor of it. T. Boone Pickens.
[T. Boone Pickens]: OK, good deal, very good.
[Thom Hartmann]: boonepickens.com. Thank you so much for being with us, sir. Good talking with you.
Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.