Boone Pickens’ recipe for energy independence is a winner

How many Americans would knowingly fill up their car with gas imported from countries on the State Department’s travel warning list?  Millions of us probably are doing just that every day.  A local fill up en route to the office or a ballgame may very well be contributing directly to the $36 billion America sends to Nigeria each year.

Americans rely on China, the Middle East and Africa for oil and other commodities, while simultaneously engaged in a “war on terror.”  Nineteen percent of America’s oil comes from the Middle East and a like amount from Africa – countries politically unstable and often hostile to the United States.  In a very real sense, we are enabling our adversaries.

America’s trade deficit swells to $40.2 billion even as China has surged to become the world’s leading exporter. Our trade deficit widened to its highest level in a year last December, largely as a result of higher oil prices. All this as unemployment nationally pushes ten percent.  Our economic recovery and long-term growth is closely linked to our reliance on foreign oil, even though an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 jobs could be created as a result of decreasing America’s dependency on oil. 

America relies on energy — especially energy refined from oil — to operate; without this “liquid gold,” our country would grind rapidly to a standstill.  We import 70 percent of the oil we need, sending $700 billion overseas every year.  Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with allowing the free market to work in this regard; other countries have what we need, so they sell and we buy. 

Free-market competition, however, should not dictate we put our heads in the sand and continue importing oil with no thought to the future. What makes sense in the short term and the long term is for the U.S. to develop domestic natural gas reserves as a supplement and as an alternative to oil.  In 2008, America consumed 23 percent of the world’s petroleum, 57 percent of which was imported while we hold less than two percent of the world’s known reserves.  However, we have sufficient known natural gas reserves spread across the lower 48 states to supply America with energy from natural gas for the next 90 years.

Overdependence on imported oil tethers America to unstable and hostile regimes, and requires the U.S. to stretch and plant its military presence across the globe. Obtaining oil from mercurial suppliers such as Venezuela, or extracting it from states like Iraq by means of occupation, represents neither fiscally sustainable nor wise policies.  To secure continued reliable access just to Iraq’s reserves, will require us to assume responsibility for re-development of that country’s oil fields and refining capacity – at a cost of tens of billions of dollars and extended support for the country’s political system.

But there is a bright spot in this debate.  Its name is “T. Boone Pickens.” Pickens’ effort in “Ending America’s Dependence on Foreign Oil,” represents sound policy and clear thinking in an arena often devoid of both.  He is drawing attention to this issue in a non-partisan manner and putting his own money into the effort.  He also has drawn attention to legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that would encourage alterative energy development and natural gas exploration.   

While we should allow the free market to operate, we should also use a little common sense; which would tell us it’s irresponsible to empower our adversaries, tie our country’s hands diplomatically and financially, and seriously hamper our economic recovery.  Doing business with countries hostile to American interests is not smart — investing in our own industry and creating jobs is smart economics, smart politics, and smart foreign relations.  And T. Boone Pickens is showing us the way.

73 comments Add your comment


February 15th, 2010
3:26 pm

What’s wrong with small cars? Nothing if you never go anywhere, or don’t have a family, or don’t want to buy anything bigger than a dozen eggs, or you are only 5′4″ and weigh 95lbs..

Otherwise, they are terribly impractical for the average American Family.


February 15th, 2010
3:35 pm

Euopeans have little problems with small cars and they have families. I thought ya’ll wanted to end the dependence on oil.


February 15th, 2010
3:57 pm

There has to be a way to do both (”drill here, drill now, create jobs, end dependence”). Frankly, as a Scout Dad, I couldn’t function with a SMART-CAR and still be able to pack my son and gear up for his weekend camping trips. My Dodge Caravan is a gem, and gets 23 mpg, the same as the Toyota Highlander hybrid, and it’s fully gas operated.

The comparison with Europe needs to be put out of its misery. We are NOT Europe. In the time it takes me to drive from here to the next big city in the state, it takes 3.5 hours on the interstate. In Europe that would cover three countries! Frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bullet-type train for cross country trips, but it would have to be affordable, more so than government-subsidized AmTrak, which is prohibitively expensive.


February 15th, 2010
4:12 pm

The smarts are really just person movers. Van and pickups have their places, maybe not single drivers commuting. Good use of fuel without being forced by price should be an incentive.

Hard Right Hook

February 15th, 2010
4:14 pm

You’re right again, Jess. The issue is that we have more coal than the middle East has oil. Yes, high-sulphur coal in our eastern states, and low sulphur goal in the western states. What the enviro-whackos won’t tell you is that all new coal fired plants are “scrubbed;” that is, exhasut gasses are subjected to a mist of calcium and water, and the vitually all the nasty stuff associated with acid rain is removed.

But even better is the nuclear option, but the permitting and regulating process has to have some common sense added to it. (Grass clippings from a nuclear plant are considered rad waste?) I’ve been in the hazardous and solid waste industry since 1984, and I know it can be done.


February 15th, 2010
5:16 pm

Hard Right,

I grew up hearing that this country became great because of it’s natural resources. Now somehow we have a government bound and determined to take these great assets off the table.

I retired from an oilfield services company, and have worked all over the world in exploration. It is beyond me why this government refuses to allow oil companies to exploit our most promising fields. England and Norway certainly have not taken the North Sea out of play, and Norway is probably the most “green” country in the world. In fact, other than the US I’m not aware of any oil producing country who has limited exploration.

Graph Reader

February 15th, 2010
5:30 pm

Do all you “drill, baby, drill” enthusiasts know that North America (not just the US but all of North America) has 16% of the world’s oil reserves? The Middle East has 56%. That’s why we’re buying our oil from them. The US has an 8-year oil reserve. Saudi Arabia has 72 years.


February 15th, 2010
5:52 pm

Graph Reader,

Estimates of oil reserves are all over the board, but all of them are based on known reserves. Since the government has taken the most promising areas in the US out of play, we really don’t know what our reserves are. You actually have to dig some holes to find that out.


February 15th, 2010
6:10 pm

Write to your congressman and urge them to get HR 1835 out of committee and to the floor.

Graph Reader

February 15th, 2010
11:31 pm

I was looking at “World Proved Reserves of Oil and Natural Gas”. US Energy Information Administration. 2007.

What estimates are you using, Jess?


February 16th, 2010
1:08 am

I’m with you, Bob! I don’t think it’s the pure best plan from an environmental standpoint since natural gas still puts out CO2, but it’s a good first step. Natural gas at least produces fewer pollutants than coal and oil, and we don’t need to beg Hugo Chavez for it.

These tax credits for more efficient appliances are great steps as well. I had to replace my heat pump, and the new one is supposed to be much more efficient. It means spending a little more up front, but that means savings each month and reducing power consumption, probably from coal.

I’m a pretty liberal person, and I can tell you that Pickens’ plan seems about as nonpartisan as it gets. I’m for expanding oil drilling in the US as long as it’s part of a broad plan to produce more energy at home AND convert more energy sources to renewable. I’m also for nuclear power because it is MUCH cleaner than any fossil fuel. There is obviously the risk of a meltdown and the issue of where to dump the waste, but fossil fuels are slowly killing us due to pollutants and the effects of climate change.


February 16th, 2010
8:00 am

What a nice fluffy article. We are berated for what we are doing now, Pickens is given as the answer and then we get NO details on what Pickens proposes. Typical Barr… fluff, no substance


February 16th, 2010
9:57 am


as it stands right now, there is very little to no hard data proving a connection between use of fossil fuels and ‘climate change’. Climategate has thrown the entire scientific community into a tail-spin and proves that the ’skeptics’ have been right to question the validity of the studies and point to manipulation of the data all along.

However, I am not adverse to giving free reign to clever people to try to find cleaner ways of burning/using fossil fuels. Pollution IS a problem that affects the quality of life on Planet Earth, and I’m all for more efficient use, and the sharing of technology with other countries to help reduce THEIR pollution problems.


February 16th, 2010
10:21 am

Graph reader,

There are many estimates of oil reserves. The Oil and Gas journal, The geophysical society, and many others. I’m not discrediting your numbers. I’m simply saying, as with your source, that most estimates deal only with known, or proven reserves. In recent years some of the most promising areas in the US for large reserves, according to seismic data, have been taken out of play for mostly political reasons. Since we are just about the only oil producing country in the world to ban exploration in large chunks of promising territory, the potential could be much higher for the US.

Alternative Sources

February 16th, 2010
12:56 pm

Boone Pickens’ elliptical logic mars the mercurial debate over foreign oil with vapidly-saturnian verses that overlook plutonium as an energy source.

Obama thinks nuclear plants are A-okay!

Bill Mcniff

February 16th, 2010
2:06 pm

Bob, Our gasoline comes from oil imported from Nigeria (as does most of the world supply). Oil from the middle east is not generally used for gasoline. Most of our imported oil comes from Canada. We share an oil basin with our northern neighbor. They use it we don’t because of our congress and EPA. T. Boone prefers natural gas for energy to support his yet to be (and probably never will be ) built wind farms. He is a crony spokesman for the Obama wind energy folks. This keeps the progressives out of his business.


February 16th, 2010
2:18 pm

Obama’s plan is 2nd generation ethanol made using natural gas fired plants producing 2-1/2 more energy than used to produce the ethanol. Increase gasoline to 15% ethanol from the 10%.


February 16th, 2010
4:17 pm

But Ethanol is a notoriously inefficient fuel source, using 1 1/2 gallons to provide the energy of 1 gallon of gasoline. Cars that run on low to no ethanol get better gas mileage than 10% ethanol blends.

It’s also been accused of ruining engines, not make them run cleaner. I would have to encourage my representatives to vote “no” on such a plan.


February 16th, 2010
5:16 pm

Ethanol replaces MTBE (made from natural gas) in gasoline that poluted ground water so the ethanol in E10 or E15 is required for the gasoline to burn in cars. Cars engines must be made (higher compression as with some luxury models) for E85 (high octane) then they get excellent relative mileage.
EPA is still testing E10/plus gasoline to ensure no damage due too higher ethanol content.

PS – Obama and T. Boone share same plan for wind but enormous rectifiers required to move wind power from Texas, to eastern, to western grid to maintain stable grid(s).

Hank Williams Jr.

February 16th, 2010
8:25 pm



Chris Broe

February 17th, 2010
1:52 am

Boone Pickens offers slim pickin’s to the alternative energy debate.

He’s the new Don Quixote.

[...] Mike King on Feb.19, 2010, under Energy, Pickens Plan Boone Pickens’ Recipe for Energy Independence is a Winner – Atlanta Journal Constitution – [...]

William in Lithonia

February 19th, 2010
5:55 pm

Yes we should be able to drill in Anwar (Alaska). If we can drill next to cows in Texas we should be able to drill near the Caribou in Alaska.

Yes we should do more offshore drilling in America. The Exxon disaster was due to the Corporation not following established mandated safety rules and should have paid the consequences.(yes reasonable government regulations were in place to prevent the wreck from becoming the mess it did – but Exxon ignored the regulations.)

In the late 1970’s Brazil and America under Jimmy Carter began on a path that would have made us both energy independed by now. Both relied on Government incentives to get there.

Brazil kept on that path and suceeded. America had the Reagan revolution, became more dependent on foriegn oil, became a debtor nation by cutting tarrifs that protected our economy and cutting the top corporate tax rate in half, destroyed the middle class with free trade, and became the world’s largest per capita prison population with the bigoted values of the religious right.

Brazil, and other industrialized countries are suceeding in clean energy, education, and health care while America is falling further behind in our standard of living as confederate flag waiving republican bigots fight for the top 2 percent and multinational corporations who have no aliegence to this country just like they fought for slavery, segregation, homophobia, zenophobia, and every other self-destructive, anti-social conservative value.