You may have heard it before from Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens about the potential for natural gas produced in the U.S. But featuring him at this year’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit Tuesday near Washington, DC put a new spin on the benefits of America becoming more energy self-sufficient on the backs of the lower-emitting fossil fuel.
Pickens, who made his first fortune as an independent oilman during the takeover heyday in the 1980s, told a Summit keynote session Tuesday he’s been trying to sell policymakers on promoting U.S.-produced natural gas for decades admittedly without success.
The boom enabled by integrating horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing of shale natural gas rock deep underground, however, has elevated the job-creating, cost-reducing and net emissions benefits of finding and producing more natural gas on par and this and other conferences addressing the future of a smarter grid, renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.
What a difference a few years make. Spotlighting the “Pickens Plan” is a notable sea-change in the thinking of the Summit’s organizers at the U.S. Department of Energy and perhaps even the White House.
The innovation that’s needed is not for a new technology, Pickens prodded. It’s fresh thinking about policies that can supplant much of America’s dependence on crude oil for gasoline imported partly from the Middle East.
“There is no free market for oil. Oil is controlled by OPEC,” Pickens said, urging the roughly 2,000 attendees in the room to own up to that simple fact. America has the resources and the brainpower to do something about it within even a five-year time frame — with dramatically new policies of course.
America is dependent on oil exported through the Strait of Hormuz for about 17 million barrels of oil per day, 12% of its daily consumption.
“I want us to (rely more) on our own resources,” he preached. “We have more natural gas than any other country. Nobody has been able to duplicate it around the world. We’re fools if we don’t use it. It’s cheap, it’s abundant and it’s ours.”
Pickens proposed selling — over a 10-year-period — oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to boost funding for alternative energy. He also tried reviving the concept of a North American Energy Alliance between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, an idea he said was first proposed in an op-ed published in the Houston Chronicle 20 years ago.
“We can, with our resources, take care of ourselves. Develop the economy on the back of cheap energy. If you don’t pick domestic natural gas, you pick OPEC.”