Former CIA Director James Woolsey on American energy independence

Former CIA Director James Woolsey and T. Boone Pickens discuss global politics, oil prices, and the path America can take to achieve energy independence. Download the podcast on AudioBoom or iTunes.


May 24 2015

T. Boone Pickens: In order to compete, U.S. needs a better energy plan

May 24, 2015

The following op-ed by T. Boone Pickens originally ran on on May 24, 2015. Read the original version.

Anyone reading this doesn’t need to be told the oil and gas industry in the United States, through innovation and investment, has made America the biggest oil and natural gas producer in the world — cutting our dependence on foreign oil by 20 percent.

People in Washington, D.C., want to burn up the press release wires with news of how they “fixed” the oil import problem, even though they’ve done little but use the oil and gas industry as a whipping boy.

But the real reason they shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back is because the problem hasn’t been solved. Not by a long shot. Despite the stunning expansion of the domestic oil and natural gas reserve base, we’re every bit as dependent on OPEC today as we were when it brought our economy to its knees with the Arab embargo in the 1970s. We’re still reliant on other countries for half the oil we need, including more than 1.5 million barrels a day from the Middle East.

Politicians in Washington want you to believe the problem is solved because gasoline prices have dropped. But this isn’t about gasoline prices; it’s about America’s national security. As long as we keep importing from the Middle East, OPEC leaders can continue to keep themselves in power and use oil as a strategic tool to tie our hands on foreign policy.

Our addiction to OPEC oil is the reason the U.S. military protects Middle East oil, even while most of it goes to other countries. Only 10 percent of the oil moved through the Strait of Hormuz comes to the U.S. The rest goes to China, India, Europe and elsewhere. But American soldiers take on all the risk, and American taxpayers pay 100 percent of the costs, of protecting that oil. It’s a mission that’s already cost thousands of American lives and more than $5 trillion in just over a decade.

We can, and should, drill for and produce more oil, but we’ll never beat the Saudis and OPEC because we’re playing their game, by their rules, on their field.

To compete, we need a better plan.

Oil production has gotten America on its feet, but it’s domestic natural gas that can change the game. If we started fueling our heavy truck fleet — the 8 million 18-wheelers — with natural gas, we would cut our need of OPEC oil by 75 percent. And we could do that by 2020.

Add in other fleet vehicles — buses, delivery vans, utility vehicles, taxis or just about anything that goes home to the barn at night to be refueled — and we could completely replace OPEC imports.

You’ve heard me say, “I’m for anything American,” when it comes to energy, and I mean it. I like batteries for vehicles, but they won’t power an 18-wheeler. That’s OK. Let’s press ahead. And let’s keep experimenting with hydrogen fuel cells and anything else we think of.

But while we’re doing that, we need to speed up the transition away from OPEC oil. The only fuel that can do that right now is natural gas. Let’s tell our leaders in Washington to roll up their sleeves and get serious about a national energy plan that puts American resources and our national security ahead of Middle East oil.

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