“Donald Trump is the most unpopular candidate ever nominated by a major political party in America. The second most unpopular is Hillary Clinton.”
That’s what Karen Tumulty said about the 2016 election during our recent conversation for the Pickens Podcast. Karen is a senior political reporter for the Washington Post. She also moderated one of the few debates between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Karen covered business and economics for the LA Times back in the 1980s when I made a run at buying Unocal – the major oil company. She said, “you couldn’t write a story about Boone Pickens without using the word ‘Raider’.”
Now she is writing a biography of Nancy Reagan. “Nancy Reagan was not only powerful,” Karen said, “but for perhaps the first time in history didn’t care who knew it. This will be a very different book than those that were written in the 1990s.”
I think you’ll agree this is a very interesting peek behind the scenes with one of America’s most respected political reporters, Karen Tumulty. Download the podcast on AudioBoom or iTunes, and let me know what you think via Twitter @BoonePickens.
Would you agree that a former president of Shell Oil knows a thing or two about the energy business? I thought you would, which is why I invited John Hofmeister to join me on my podcast. Here are five insights on energy today from this proven leader:
The price of oil will reach $80 a barrel this year and possibly go as high as $100 a barrel in 2017. The world’s most populous nations – India and China – are using cheap oil to grow their economies. And they’re not the only ones. So are many countries in Africa. Global demand on this level has to push the price up.
Anyone who says it costs the Saudis five dollars to produce a barrel of oil doesn’t know the energy business. This ignores the cost of their social welfare programs, and pumping oil out of the ground is just one of many costs to consider. How about the salaries of the engineers and technicians who oversee production? What does it cost to house tens of thousands of foreign workers? And what’s the price tag to protecting billions of dollars of pipelines and refineries from radical Islamists?
Let’s start a North American Energy Alliance under NAFTA. Mexico has enormous oil reserves, but PEMEX lacks the technical prowess of U.S. producers. Why don’t we figure out a way to trade our technology for energy security? We’ll all come out ahead.
Americans need to use more natural gas. We’re already seeing more and more heavy-duty trucks run on CNG. But what about using LNG and other natural-gas fuels for cars, light trucks, and SUVs?
Will politicians ever stop thinking like politicians? The typical political timeline is two years, i.e. until the next election. The typical energy timeline? Try 30 years. The sooner politicians recognize the need for long-term thinking when it comes to energy, the better off we’ll all be.
On most of my podcasts, I drive the bus: asking questions and gathering insights from thought leaders. But Tony Robbins is a different story. He’s the bus driver on this week’s podcast. As always, he’s full of insights and ideas. I hope you enjoy his questions to me — I sure did!
Boone – You call yourself one of the luckiest guys on earth. Why is that? For starters, when it came time for me to be born, my mother couldn’t deliver me. To make matters worse, the doctor in my hometown had never performed a cesarean. So my dad had to talk the surgeon into delivering me by cesarean. And he had to use a medical manual to complete the C-section. How’s that for lucky?
How else have you been lucky? Since I turned 70, I’ve paid more than $700 million in taxes. Most people wouldn’t consider that good luck, but it says a lot about my productivity. I’ve done pretty good in my retirement years, haven’t I?
You’ve actually given away more money than your worth today, haven’t you? That’s right. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve given away a billion dollars. A lot of it went to medical research. A lot went to my alma mater, Oklahoma State. I feel like I got my money’s worth.
How is your Pickens Plan doing? I feel like we have been successful. Did we get all the legislation we want passed? No. But are the American people better informed? Definitely. We were spending a lot of money on foreign oil importing 7 million barrels of Middle Eastern oil. Now we’re down to about 1 million barrels.
T. Boone Pickens was interviewed for the weekend edition of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” The interview aired nationally yesterday, and it captures Boone’s thoughts on energy and the presidential race.
Following is the transcript of the conversation which you can listen to here.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: I wanted to ask you – recently, you made headlines for declaring at a dinner that the industry is dead in the water. Can you elaborate on that?
PICKENS: Sure. Since 1980, the price of oil has dropped more than in half five different times. Four of those times, the Saudis stabilized the price by cutting production and reducing the oversupply.
So, now fast forward. This is the fifth time, and when oil dropped to $26 per barrel the Saudis made it very clear they would not cut output, that it would be up to the United States. Why? By utilizing fracking and horizontal drilling technologies, we’re the ones that oversupplied the market. Remember, the Saudis said they would not cut production and they didn’t. Neither did the Russians. So, it has been up to us.
We cut a lot. We went from 1,609 rigs in November, 2014 and today, it’s down to 342 rigs.
MARTIN: When you say that the industry is dead in the water, you mean permanently? Or you mean as part of a cycle?
PICKENS: It’s a cycle. It’ll cycle back up again – is what’s going to happen. Here’s the problem: We’ve lost probably 200,000 people working in the oil fields. They’re not that easy to replace. Those people have to have jobs, so they’ve moved away and gotten into other industries. When we start back up again, don’t have the idea it’s like turning on a switch. It’s going to take some time to find workers, train them, and get them operating as teams.
MARTIN: Is there anything about this downturn that is different that you would wish to highlight, or not?
PICKENS: Well, we cut because producers couldn’t make any money – all for good economic reasons. The oil and gas industry in the United States took the hit, but don’t worry about them. Who did it help? It’s like a huge tax break for the rest of the world. It’s been great for the consumer. You, Michel – you’re not an oil producer. You like the drop in gasoline prices.
MARTIN: I confess that I do.
PICKENS: Is it anything to feel guilty about? Absolutely not.
MARTIN: You talked a little bit about the geopolitics here just for a minute. I mean, obviously, OPEC has been a concern – a national security concern for many, many years of Americans. You’ve written and talked about how to make OPEC less relevant by saying we need to embrace alternative energies, from natural gas to wind turbines, solar, liquefied fuels like the kind produced by your company Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which builds and runs liquefied natural gas fueling stations. I have to ask – if you had been a promoter of these technologies earlier, would the U.S. be in a different place than we are today?
PICKENS: No. Something I want to say before we go too far. I was amused by Hillary Clinton on March 16 when she said we are going to cut out coal because it’s dirty, and we’re going to cut out all fossil fuels.
Listen, the world produces 94 million barrels of oil a day. Seventy percent of that is used as the primary transportation fuel. OK, Hillary: Tell me – how do you replace that 70 percent? Wind and solar are wonderful resources. And, America has plenty of both. Do they help? Of course they help. And they should be developed. I am an environmentalist.
But neither one of them are transportation fuels. I am also a realist. And the reality is we use one unbelievable amount of energy in the world – 94 million barrels a day. You can’t cut that out. It’s impossible.
MARTIN: I wanted to ask you a little bit more about politics, since you went there. You have said that Donald Trump is the best candidate for the energy industry. But you also said that he doesn’t seem all that electable. That was a couple of weeks ago. Now that he’s the de facto Republican nominee, do you have any other thoughts about him?
PICKENS: Sure. He’s going to win – is what’s going to happen – because Americans want change. They don’t know for sure what Trump will change. They believe that he will change something. And I do, too.
MARTIN: Are you going to vote for him?
PICKENS: Oh, sure, I’m going to vote for him.
MARTIN: Why do you think there are such wildly varying views about him on the right? Let’s just take Democrats and liberals out of the equation. Let’s just talk about conservatives.
PICKENS: Michel, they cannot believe it. They cannot believe it isn’t working like it has always in the past. Somebody wants change, and it happens to be a businessman that stepped up. When he first showed up, I said, you know, I know Donald. I’ve known him for years. And he isn’t going to be a factor. Well, he was a factor. Every time he said something that wasn’t very good, he actually went up in the polls. And none of us could believe that. Listen, he got the nomination the way you get the nomination. The people gave him the nomination. He didn’t get it by accident.
MARTIN: Republicans gave him the nomination.
PICKENS: The people did. He picked up a lot of people that are not Republicans.
MARTIN: (Laughter) OK, so we’re going to talk on November 10, right? And you’re going to tell me – whatever happens, we’re going to talk again.
PICKENS: I’ll be more than happy to.
MARTIN: T. Boone Pickens chairs the hedge fund BP Capital Management. We reached him at his office in Dallas.