Blog

Sep 13 2017

An Open Letter To America’s Governors

Sep 13, 2017

I have always been for an all-the-above approach to this nation’s energy policy, but that doesn’t mean we need to jam a square peg in a round hole. Solar, wind, electric and natural gas all have their place, but it must be in accordance with an appropriate application. President Obama tried to grease that square peg into a round hole, choosing energy favorites with a hefty $2.7 billion, supplied by Volkswagen. Now, there is an opportunity for the states to correct that mistake and implement a more effective energy plan.

As you likely know, Volkswagen was caught cheating on its emissions tests, resulting in vehicles on the road that far exceed federal NOx emissions standards. The German car manufacturer was sued by the Obama EPA and settled for $16 billion with $2.7 billion going to the states, primarily for the creation of medium and heavy-duty vehicle grants to mitigate the NOx.

Each state will receive an allotment of the $2.7 billion, and the Governor of each state must appoint a department to create a plan for spending the funds that follows the terms of the settlement. However, favoritism is standing in the way of a cost-effective, energy-efficient, market-driven plan.

While all alternative fuel types are eligible for grants of 25 percent of the vehicle cost, guess which technology was granted special treatment to receive 75 percent of the vehicle cost? You guessed it: electric vehicles (EVs). Some argue that they are cleaner because they have zero emissions. Well, they have zero tailpipe emissions, but plenty emissions are produced at the generation facility that creates the electricity. Keep in mind that many are still fired by coal and very few are utilizing even a small amount of solar or wind. In fact, when you look at the NOx emissions produced to create the electricity to power an EV compared to the tailpipe emissions of a near-zero natural gas vehicle (NGV), the NGV is at least equal and likely cleaner. For example, the South Coast Air Quality Management District of California views the new near-zero natural gas engines to be zero-emission equivalent based on the district’s mix of electric generation supplying their grid – and they have one of the cleanest grids in the country. So, natural gas engines for heavy-duty trucks are far cleaner than diesel engines and as clean as electric vehicles.

While comparable in regard to NOx emissions, NGVs and EVs are miles apart on cost. An all-electric medium or heavy-duty vehicle can cost twice the amount or more of a similar vehicle powered by a near-zero natural gas engine. As for buses, an EV bus can cost you north of a million dollars.

So you can see, there is no environmental or economic case for favoritism of EVs over other alternative fuel vehicles. In fact, there should be no favoritism at all. I have always been for fair and equitable market competition – government should not reach in and pick the winners and losers. If the idea is to mitigate the most NOx emissions with a set amount of funds, states should be free to accomplish that goal in the most effective way. Now, it’s becoming clearer that the focus should be on getting medium and heavy-duty trucks running on natural gas.

That’s where America’s Governors come in. The 75 percent funding level for EVs is a ceiling. Governors can correct Obama’s multi-billion dollar give-away to the EV lobbyists by creating an even playing field for all alternative fuels, by providing grants in the amount of 25 percent of the vehicle cost regardless of whether it runs on propane, natural gas or electricity. Furthermore, providing the lower 25 percent will mean more vehicles get funded and thus more emissions reduced.

So the question presents itself: Will you, Governors, continue the Obama give-away or will you put in place a market-driven plan to deploy cleaner and cheaper vehicles on the road?

The choice is easy – it’s up to each of you to do what’s right for our nation.

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Aug 24 2017

Webcast: The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award

Aug 24, 2017

The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.

Mesa Natural Gas Solutions of Casper, Wyoming is one of the companies that will be recognized during this year’s award ceremony at the Pentagon. Tune in Friday, August 25 at 10 am ET to watch a webcast of the event.

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Aug 20 2017

Saluting Mesa Natural Gas Solutions for Supporting Military Service Members

Aug 20, 2017

Among the things I’m most passionate about are those whose serve in our military and American energy independence.

I’ve long championed the need for the United States to get off OPEC oil and escape the economic and national security threats posed by that dependence. Since 2008, I have taken the Pickens Plan’s educational efforts and policy initiative strategies coast to coast and back again many times over. Once again, America simply must get on its own resources.

I’ve also supported a wide range of military support organizations — including the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, Fisher House projects, the T. Boone Pickens Military Mentors Program, Patriot Paws, the Veterans National Education Program, and Operation Mend — through the T. Boone Pickens Foundation.

I am always evaluating ways to support these two key interests – especially when they come together in such a powerful way. These two interests successfully met through a 2014 investment in Mesa Natural Gas Solutions in Casper, Wyoming.

I have a great affinity for the word “Mesa.” I grew Mesa Petroleum into one of the nation’s largest independent oil companies. My 68,000-acre Mesa Vista Ranch, in the far northeast corner of the Texas Panhandle, is my favorite place on earth. A number of my other concerns, including Mesa Natural Gas Solutions, have also born the name.

U.S. military veterans founded Mesa Natural Gas Solutions and comprise more than 60 percent of its employees. The company has more than 200 years of combined military service and more than 30 overseas deployments in its ranks, all the way up to the top. Mesa’s President and CEO, Scott Gromer, retired after 23 plus years of military service, including two unit commands, three deployments in Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as Major in the Wyoming Army National Guard. Mesa not only hires, employs, and promotes both veterans and active duty service members, but the company also supports them however it can.

Mesa Natural Gas Solutions provides clean, reliable power and other ancillary services primarily to the oil and gas industry by utilizing natural gas directly from the wellhead. Mesa provides turn-key energy solutions to its customers through services contracts that are inclusive of equipment, maintenance, service, setup, and transportation. Natural gas generators are money-savers and easier on the environment. Most diesel-powered generators require site fuel delivery three times a week; the natural gas alternatives do not require fuel deliveries, as they receive their fuel directly from the wellhead. Natural gas generators, which have much lower emissions than comparable diesel units, also reduce the amount of gas wasted as flare gas at well sites. So, the process is cleaner, more economic, and requires less truck traffic to the site.

One of my life-long regrets was the inability to serve in the military. The timing never worked for me. I was too young for World War II. By the time of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, I had young children and was deeply involved in growing Mesa Petroleum. I’ve tried to compensate over the years by giving enthusiastically to programs and organizations that benefit those who have put their lives on the line for this great nation.

Mesa Natural Gas Solutions walks the talk with its vets. If an employee deploys, he or she receives full pay and benefits for the duration of the deployment. All service members currently serving in the National Guard or Reserves receive full pay while gone for military training/duties, and are guaranteed that his or her exact job will be available upon return. The company offers flexible scheduling to accommodate service and training obligations, even without notice. Full retirement, medical, dental, and vision benefits are provided during deployment. Employees accrue vacation and sick time during deployment.

Beyond these steps, the company is proactive in finding ways to support the spouses and families of its soldiers while they are deployed. For example, the company’s leadership team regularly attends — in full force — award and honor ceremonies for military members to show its support in its community.

Their commitment to veterans has not gone unnoticed. I’m proud that Mesa Natural Gas Solutions was among the 15 recipients Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced as 2017 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award winners. The Freedom Award recognizes employers who have gone above and beyond federal requirements in support of National Guard and Reserve employees. Mesa will be among those employers recognized in a ceremony at the Pentagon on August 25th.

For this, I salute them.

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Jul 8 2017

Inside the Pickens Plan with Peter McCollum and Jason Huntsberry

Jul 8, 2017

Nine years ago today, we launched the Pickens Plan. We knew we had a great idea, and people across the country agreed. We’d held focus groups and found that Americans knew about the problem, but saw that the country lacked an energy plan. They were hungry for something that would work, a specific energy plan that included a little bit of everything — solar, wind, and natural gas.

For the final podcast on the history of the Pickens Plan, I talk with Peter McCollum, strategic communicator and Partner at Whistle Lake Public Affairs, and Jason Huntsberry, President & CEO of Schenck Foods Co. Although they referred to themselves as “little cogs in a big machine,” they were a major part of the tight-knit team that makes the Pickens Plan tick.

They discuss with me the process of going from idea to plan, navigating bumps and setbacks, and of course, learning a thing or two about the future of energy along the way.

Jason recalls “being in Kansas and seeing 3,000 people in the middle of the day, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, showing up to meet an 80-year-old billionaire from Texas to hear about renewable energy. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

That’s the kind of support I’ve seen across the country over the past nine years. The national conversation around energy has moved forward because you understand this simple, but important idea: If it works, let’s use it. If it’s American, we’ll use it. And it’s all coming together and happening now.

Subscribe to the Pickens Podcast on AudioBoom or iTunes, and let me know what you think via Twitter @BoonePickens.

– Boone

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Jun 6 2017

Inside the Pickens Plan with Amy Weiss and Rich Galen

Jun 6, 2017

I’ve always strongly believed that a good idea can bring Americans together for a greater cause. Washington is as divided as it has ever been, and it has become difficult to set politics aside and get things done. But fortunately the Pickens Plan benefited from a bipartisan team that came together to promote a plan that has our nation’s best interests in mind.

For the latest episode of the Pickens Podcast, I sat down with Rich Galen, a columnist and former press secretary for U.S. Senators Dan Quayle (R-IN) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), and Amy Weiss, former White House Deputy Press Secretary to President Bill Clinton, press secretary and campaign manager for U.S. Representative Mike Synar (D-OK) and CEO of Weiss Public Affairs. These two have reached across the aisle to help make the Pickens Plan work. It just goes to show how successful you can be when you can look past personal politics to focus on a mission.

During our conversation, we remember some of the ways the Pickens Plan brought people together, whether it was in Washington or on the set of The Daily Show. We talk about what a great team can accomplish – all you need is a good idea.

This episode is the third in a series on the history of the Pickens Plan, where members of my team sit down to tell stories from over the years and discuss how the Pickens Plan has worked for almost ten years.

Subscribe to the Pickens Podcast on AudioBoom or iTunes, and let me know what you think via Twitter @BoonePickens.

– Boone

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May 11 2017

Inside the Pickens Plan Campaign with Tammy Haddad and Heather Lauer

May 11, 2017

With just around 3.5 million members from all walks of life, the Pickens Plan has been a success thanks largely to you. But the Pickens Plan has benefited from a great team behind the scenes.

Now, in the second episode of a series on the history of the Pickens Plan, members of my team sit down with me to discuss how the plan has worked for just shy of a decade.

Joining me this time are Tammy Haddad, who is President & CEO of Haddad Media and has produced not only this but every episode of my podcast, and Heather Lauer, a social media expert.

These two have helped get out the word about the Pickens Plan since I was drawing it up on whiteboards and restaurant napkins. Now, they’ve moved out from behind the scenes to tell stories from nine years of the plan and to discuss the success we’ve had since my idea in the summer of 2008.

We recall meetings with Gov. Sarah Palin, Gov. George Pataki and Mike Bloomberg in New York. We discuss how the plan has grown and become a success, thanks to support from all ages and both sides of the aisle.

Subscribe to the Pickens Podcast on AudioBoom or iTunes, and let me know what you think via Twitter @BoonePickens.

– Boone

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Apr 27 2017

Inside the Pickens Plan Campaign with Tom Synhorst and Jay Rosser

Apr 27, 2017

I have preached my whole life about the importance of building a great team. So here is the first in a series of podcasts with the people who actually make the Pickens Plan run.

Joining me for this episode are Jay Rosser, who has been my right hand man for 15 years and serves as my VP, Public Affairs, and seasoned political expert Tom Synhorst, who served as the Campaign Manager. When I decided to launch the Pickens Plan, Tom was my first call and first hire. He’s the hidden hand in American politics — a man who works tirelessly behind the scenes. This is likely his video debut.

We reminisce about the beginnings of the Plan in the summer of 2008, how we were importing $1 billion of foreign oil (it’s about half that today), how we had no energy plan and no prospects for one from either candidate, Barack Obama or John McCain, and how we focused on converting heavy-duty trucks from diesel to natural gas right from the get-go.

I think you’ll appreciate this insiders’ look at how it all got started.

Subscribe to the Pickens Podcast on AudioBoom or iTunes, and let me know what you think via Twitter @BoonePickens.

— Boone

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Apr 14 2017

It’s okay to be wrong. But learn from it.

Apr 14, 2017

Acknowledge your mistakes. Some can hurt and be costly. I know all too well. Just make sure you remember the doors that smashed your fingers the first time and be more careful the next trip through.

Col. Edwin Drake birthed the first oil boom and the world’s commercial oil industry in 1859 with a well near Oil Creek in Titusville, Pennsylvania. I know, I was there.

Seriously, I’ve been in the oil business for 60 years. I know a lot about it; CNBC has even dubbed me the Oracle of Oil. But I’m not perfect. In this business, no one can be.

In The First Billion is the Hardest, published in 2008, I dedicated a whole chapter to what I considered an all-important truth: that the world was running out of cheap oil. Turns out I was jumping the gun on the whole Peak Oil theory by not anticipating that technology was opening up reserves we previously thought could not be retrieved. Of course, I wasn’t alone.

Further back in my career, I didn’t think that the economics could make extracting Canada’s Oil Sands feasible. That’s the same Canada Oil Sands that, some decades later, Time magazine described as that country’s “greatest buried treasure.”

Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world, behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Of its 173 billion barrels of oil reserves, 170 billion are located in Alberta, about 168 billion of which are today recoverable from bitumen. Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen. Bitumen is oil that is too heavy or thick to flow or be pumped without being diluted or heated.

I’ve done quite a bit of business in Canada, particularly early in my career. I was living in Alberta in 1967 (at age 39) when Suncor (then called the Great Canadian Oil Sands) launched the first project to produce synthetic crude oil from the sands in Fort Murray, Alberta.

At the end of the day, I’d occasionally stop by the Petroleum Club, where four or five of my fellow geologists would be ensconced talking shop. On this particular day, we were there scoffing at the idea of this government project, mostly because we couldn’t see any way it could make any money.

One of our crew, my good friend Harley Hotchkiss, leaned over to me and said, “You know, Boone, for this thing to work, you’d have to have $5 oil.” We both laughed at the idea, as the price of oil was $2.20 a barrel at that time.

I had first met Harley in Calgary in 1957 when I was just starting out as an independent. He was in the oil department of the Canadian Bank of Commerce at the time. We were both about the same age and geologists; he was schooled at Michigan State University. We hit it off right away.

We ended up setting up shop across the hall from each other a couple years later when we both were hunting projects in Calgary. We even shared information, well cards, production cards, and electricity logs — pretty unheard of in what was a competitive, distrustful industry.

We would go on to do deals together as we became fast friends. We made a lot of money together. We in turn each gave a lot to philanthropic causes, sometimes hitting each other up for a cause either of us was working. He would later serve on our Mesa Petroleum Board of Directors for about six years in the early ‘80s, when we were involved in some complicated activities.

But back on that day in 1967, we were right for the day but not for the near future. Our imaginations couldn’t visualize $40 a barrel oil. But it would arrive, and transform Fort McMurray into a boomtown. (For example, total Canadian oil sands production reached about 2.3 million barrels per day in 2014, according to the Alberta Energy Regulator.)

I learned early on in my career to analyze well, assess risks and prospective rewards, and keep things simple. I’ve also learned you can be smart and make the wrong analysis based on the facts you have on hand at any one time. BP Capital did invest big in the Canadian Oil Sands, beginning in 2001.

I’m regularly amazed by the oil and gas industry’s continual advances in technology, research, and innovation. It’s what has made America great, and the industry will continue to prove its greatness under President Donald Trump.

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Mar 10 2017

How Volkswagen Is Shaping America’s Energy Future

Mar 10, 2017

Volkswagen, the storied German automaker, pleaded guilty today to three felony counts as part of a $4.3 billion settlement reached with the Justice Department in January over the automaker’s massive diesel emissions scandal.

There’s a great deal of irony in this, and a great opportunity for America’s energy security. Here’s why.

Back when President Obama rolled into the White House for the first time, I was in the midst of an aggressive campaign to address the stranglehold placed on our national security and our economy by addiction to OPEC oil.

The crux of that plan was to expand renewables (wind and solar) in power generation, and replace dirtier-burning and more expensive OPEC oil with our abundant supplies of cleaner-burning domestic natural gas in the transportation sector. The overarching goal was to break the stranglehold OPEC had on our economic and national security.

Washington lawmakers refused to foot the bill for America to go down that path. Now, in an ironic twist of fate, with the VW transgression, we have the Germans poised to finance it for us. And we’re fools if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity.

In 2015, the German automaker, Volkswagen, was found to have installed software on its diesel-powered vehicles that provided false emissions data — data that understated the emissions their vehicles were actually producing.

I’ve always been skeptical that diesel can ever burn as clean as alternatives such as electric cars or heavy-duty trucks fueled by natural gas. The lifecycle costs to produce diesel — from production to refining and out of the tailpipe — are just too great. Going to such lengths to falsify emission data just reinforces my skepticism, and my anger.

Since getting caught, the company has agreed to pay fines of $16 billion to settle claims for cheating. These fines will be paid to the U.S. government and shared among the states. In addition, owners of VW vehicles and the dealers who sold them will share in the proceeds.

We’re not talking chump change here. Texas alone, where I live, is set to get $191 million.

This flap once again underscores the need to get diesel vehicles off the road when and where we can, both for air quality purposes and to reduce our dependence on OPEC oil. One of the most toxic emissions produced by diesel engines is Nitrogen Oxide (NOx). It is generated by all internal combustion engines, but a new natural gas engine developed by Cummins-Westport produced 90 percent less NOx emissions than new diesel-powered trucks. That engine is available today.

State regulators ultimately tasked with spending the VW settlement should have some guidance from those with history, experience and knowledge — including industry, independent experts and environmental authorities.

First, a majority of the funds should be used for vehicles which already perform below current federal NOx limits, such as the Cummins Wesport engine mentioned above.

Second, all vehicles performing below federal NOx limits should be treated equally. States should look to decrease the number of diesel-powered vehicles on the road — especially heavy-duty trucks — and replace them with trucks powered by natural gas.

Why not go right to batteries? Because batteries will not move an 18-wheeler, and they cost at least five times more than comparable diesel-powered trucks. So, while electric cars are all the rage, batteries are not a substitute fuel source for over-the-road trucks.

Finally, while there will be justifiable efforts to use these funds on state fleets, it is even more important to find ways to allow private-sector fleets access to these funds. In fact, that’s where the bulk of the money should go.

Keeping in mind this settlement money is coming from a corporation and not the taxpayers, there will be no shortage of ideas from state regulators on how to spend these funds. States should show leadership by not using it solely to upgrade state fleet vehicles.

The reason is simple. If states use this money to replace aging fleets, this will be a “one-and-done” deal. On the other hand, if the money is used to provide incentives for the public and private sectors to purchase new, natural gas-powered vehicles, the positive effects on reducing NOx emissions will be magnified many times over the years.

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Mar 2 2017

Climb Out Of The “We’ve Always Done It That Way”​ Rut

Mar 2, 2017

Listening to President Trump last night deliver his first joint address to Congress – and his commitment to expanding America’s energy renaissance – reminded me of a story.

I’ve been a member at Augusta National Golf Club since August 1982. At Augusta, the club assigns you a caddy, and that guy will be your caddy as long as you live.

I’ve got a great one, Larry, who is highly skilled and always respectful.

One day as I was playing, I asked Larry, “We’ve got the best golf club in the world. Why do we close it in May for the summer?”

Out of character, Larry looked at me, and I could see in his expression that the man he thought was so smart was not so sharp after all.

“Mr. Pickens, that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

I’ve never stomached that kind of answer from any of my employees, but I didn’t say anything more to Larry on the subject.

I thought about this exchange last night, and the stark contrast in President Trump’s address and the comments just the week before by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters when she threw out some harsh views for the president’s cabinet, calling them “a bunch of scumbags.”

She referred to the president’s supporters as a “Kremlin clan, all of them connected to the oil and gas industry.” The California Democrat was particularly pointed in her criticism of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian oil ties.

Prior to his confirmation, I wrote that Rex Tillerson would make a great Secretary of State. And I think he will.

When is operating successfully in foreign countries, as Secretary Tillerson did when he was CEO of Exxon, a negative? It ought to be a positive.

I’ve been in the oil industry for 60 years as it helped America find great success by producing abundant, cheap oil.

Bringing Tillerson’s global expertise to the Washington mindset is a win for America.

I admire that President Trump is making us try something different. I have always believed that it’s important to show a new look periodically. Predictability can lead to failure. I think we’ve seen that in Washington.

Let’s see where some new approaches take us.

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Over 3 million Americans have signed up for the Pickens Plan Army.Will you?