The Ripon Forum
Volume 51, No. 1
by T. BOONE PICKENS
It has been 32 years since I appeared in the pages of this magazine. A lot has changed since that time. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the need to make sure we have a government that works. I was asked about this subject in that 1985 interview.
“Can you really run a government like a business?” the Forum’s editor asked me at the time. “Sure you can,” I replied. “It’s a business to start with. Taxpayers are like stockholders, and both are entitled to a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. For a dollar spent, taxpayers ought to receive a dollar back in value.”
Value. Now there’s a word you don’t hear mentioned much in the corridors of power in our nation’s capital. And yet providing Americans with a return on the hard-earned tax dollars they send to Washington – providing them with value for their federal investment – should be one of the top priorities for our elected leaders.
That’s one of the reasons I authored The Pickens Plan. At 88-years old, I know that I have more history behind me than I do ahead. But I also know that I want to make it my mission to help break our nation’s historic and dangerous dependence on OPEC oil that threatens our economy, our environment and our national security.
Since the plan was launched in July of 2008, we’ve seen an incredible increase in domestic oil and natural gas production. The incredible ingenuity and innovation of private industry has led to a continued decline not just in the price of natural gas, and American crude oil, but of wind and solar electricity as well. These stunning gains have been achieved despite continued foot-dragging in Washington.
America is in the midst of an energy renaissance, and President Trump will have the opportunity to set the nation on a course toward self-sufficiency.
We are still a long way from securing our nation’s energy future and are not without risk of failing. The domestic energy industry has lost nearly a quarter of a million American jobs since its recent peak, and OPEC continues working to maintain control of the market. America is in the midst of an energy renaissance, and President Trump will have the opportunity to set the nation on a course toward self-sufficiency — our situation is good. Instead of predictions about the future, I offer my advice on how to make it great.
I suggest President Trump pursue an energy plan with two parts. The first part is to not screw up what we have going for us. The second part is to not settle for what we’ve done so far. To be more specific:
DON’T SCREW UP…
- Clarity in who makes energy decisions. Currently, decisions about energy are spread out among the President, the Department of Energy, the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Congress, to name just a few.
- Promote hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. There areabout 30 oil and natural gas producing states in America. In each of them, fracking has led to an increase in American production to nearly 9.5 million barrels of oil a day, and has increased known recoverable natural gas reserves enough to make the U.S. the world’s leader – more than Qatar, more than Russia, more than Saudi Arabia.
- Work with industry, not against it. Federal and state agencies should have a policy of working with the oil and gas industry to improve any safety or environmental issues rather than unilaterally imposing new regulations without understanding the full effects, or punishing the industry with new taxes to pay for programs that have nothing to do with energy production.
- Meet our own energy needs before worrying about other countries. Don’t export oil or natural gas. The best way we can help Europe escape the yoke of dependence on Russian natural gas, and help Mexico maximize its oil resources, is by exporting our technology and expertise.
OPEC is on the run, but they’re playing the long game. They’ve shown they are willing to risk everything to control as much of the world’s oil supply as they can. We still rely on foreign nations for more than six million barrels of oil a day. As long as we remain so dependent, we’re playing OPEC’s game. We need to not just match, but beat OPEC in looking at the long-term. How do we do that?
- Work with our allies. Mexico and Canada to establish a North American Energy Alliance to create an energy powerhouse that will never have to bow to the demands of OPEC again. The President’s decision to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline is a good decision in that regard. Keystone will allow us to safely and economically transport Canadian oil to refineries in the U.S. rather than forcing the Canadians to ship that oil to China.
- Modernize government fleets. Federal, state, county and local fleets should be looking for ways to save taxpayer money, strengthen our economy, and reduce pollution by leading the way in the changeover from gasoline and diesel powered vehicles to cars and light trucks that run on competing fuels that are cheaper and cleaner. The transportation fuels marketplace shouldn’t be monopolistic. Decisions about government fleets should be decided by competitive bidding with full life cycle costs factored in when considering competing technologies. If they did, taxpayer-supported fleets would catch up to the utility, express delivery, and other private sector companies with vehicles that go “home to the barn” every night for central natural gas refueling. In addition to the obvious benefit of lowering costs to taxpayers, the additional demand for natural gas vehicles by government fleets will drive down the cost of manufacturing and increase the rate of innovation for governments and consumers alike.
- Build the electrical grid of the future. Electric vehicles aren’t going to replace oil and the internal combustion engine overnight. But renewable energy sources have a lot of potential, and we need a power grid capable of connecting those vehicles and everything else to the next generation of electricity generation; grid designed to protect America against cyber or physical attacks and to promote efficiencies in home, commercial and industrial usage.
- Continue to research and develop new sources of energy. Wind and solar prices are going to continue to drop, and the middle of America is the “Saudi Arabia of Wind.” States like Iowa have embraced wind energy and offshore wind turbines are fast becoming commercially viable.
- Remember: Energy is not a free market. Market forces are constantly being manipulated by central governments around the world that control about 70 percent of all oil production. America’s military protects Middle Eastern oil, costing American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars a year to ensure Europe, India, and China have secure access to oil supplies. The true cost of imported oil is not reflected at the pump.
Governments pick energy winners and losers all the time whether it’s serving as the world’s oil police or providing natural gas to Central and Eastern Europe or subsidizing ethanol in the United States. It is time that we pick a winner, too: The United States of America.
Doing so will set America on the path to true energy independence. In the process, it will also provide Americans with a better return on the tax dollars they send to Washington, DC.
T. Boone Pickens is the Founder, Chairman and CEO at BP Capital and TBP Investments Management, and the architect of the Pickens Plan, a campaign to get the U.S. off of OPEC oil and on the U.S.’s natural resources.