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How to Make America Great Again with Domestic Energy Resources

An energy plan in two parts: don’t screw up what we have going for us, and don’t settle for what we’ve done so far.

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T. Boone Pickens (R) with Senator Orrin Hatch (L) at a news conference in 2009 to introduce the "New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions" Act.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

A guest column written by T. Boone Pickens, the founder, chairman, and CEO at BP Capital and TBP Investments Management, and architect of the Pickens Plan, a campaign to get the U.S. off of OPEC oil and on the U.S.’s natural resources.

In the late eighties and early nineties, I considered running for governor of Texas. Now 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.

“Can you really run a government like a business?” I was asked 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 Texans 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.

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 Donald Trump will have the opportunity to set the nation on a course toward self-sufficiency.

Our situation is good, yet, instead of predictions about the future, here is 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 . . .

1) Have clarity in who makes energy decisions. If Rick Perry is confirmed to helm the Department of Energy, we can work to establish this clarity. His tenure as the longest-serving governor of Texas gave him the know-how to reorganize and rationalize the decision-making process when it comes to all forms of energy, from nuclear to hydro.

2) Promote hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. There are about thirty 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.

3) 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.

4) 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.

DON’T SETTLE . . .

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 OPEC, but we need to beat them in looking at the long-term. How do we do that?

1) Work with our allies. We ought to work with 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.

2) 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 change-over 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.

3) 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; a grid designed to protect America against cyber or physical attacks and to promote efficiencies in home, commercial, and industrial usage.

4) 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.” Texas has been a proven leader in this regard, topping the nation in wind power and renewable energy commercialization.

5) Remember: Energy is not a free market. Market forces are constantly being manipulated by central governments around the world that control about seventy 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, D.C.

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  • Peter Yawei Zhang

    still working hard, appreciate that, Mr. Pickens.

    • Margaretjsmith

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      • revrnjim

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  • Jeffrey Clark

    Boone has an energy vision for America and for Texas and, conveniently, it’s cleaner, cheaper, and made in our region. Natural gas and renewables are the power sources of the near future, not dirty coal imported from Wyoming. Texas can power Texas, but we have to get our politicians to get moving on making our independence possible. Cut red tape and regulation and get the infrastructure in place to let it happen.

  • revrnjim

    Great article Boone. When are you meeting with President Trump?

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      !dt12c:
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    • drunkjerryjones

      boon is an idiot – trump would never meet with him – when you look at trumps life vs pickens life, the difference is clear – trump – integrity; pickens – lies

  • drunkjerryjones

    pickens’ is a delusional mess

  • biff

    6) Don’t worry about extracting oil/gas carefully, we’ll leave that for other people to do.

    7) Same goes for the roads we’ll tear up.

    8) Water? You don’t need that, we’ll suck up all we need.

    • WestTexan70

      9. And it will further enrich MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • revrnjim

      Step off you mild little snowflake.

  • Emily Palmer

    Although I disagree with some of Perkins’s points, such as supporting fracking, I think his energy plan speaks to the rural and blue-collar sections of the American public in ways that liberal policies fail to do (at least recently). His simple diction and inclusion of oil & gas industries support long-standing rural employment. Despite Perkins’s standing as an established member of the GOP, I believe that Democrats need to look past his partisanship and consider the unity behind his policies, especially as they attempt to regain the Senate majority in 2018.

    I think a great example of the effect of ignoring the rural vote is Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat. The percentages of rural counties she won in key swing states, Pennsylvania – 26 to Trump’s 71 percent, Wisconsin – 34 to 56 percent, and Michigan – 57 to 38 percent, speak for themselves. Despite most metropolitan areas voting consistently blue, Clinton was defeated, which demonstrates that the Democrats need to court the rural vote in the 2018 midterm elections (although districts in the Senate vote differ from those in the Presidential election, most contested districts will still have a rural following).

    I think that in order to court these rural communities, Perkins employs two strategies effectively, one of which is his use of simple phrases such as “Don’t screw up” and “Don’t settle.” This colloquialism makes his plan easy to understand, which appeals to areas with undereducated voters. In 2014, in rural counties, of adults over 25, 19% had a bachelor’s degree or higher (in metropolitan areas it was 32%), so simplifying concepts allows the other 81% of voters to interpret the ideas more easily. Both democratic candidates, Sanders and Clinton, were criticized for indirect, broad language when addressing challenges with their energy plans. Neither of them had a straightforward agenda, with Clinton switching her stance on fracking and Sanders caving about nuclear energy. Trump capitalized on Clinton’s inconsistency during the election, which highlights the need for simple, clear policies. Therefore, simplifying rhetoric helps Perkins to appeal to voters in rural areas who might otherwise see him as ‘crooked’ or not invested in his own views.

    Perkins’s plan advocates to maintain oil & gas infrastructure, which I think is the key second strategy he employs which influences the blue-collar vote. The oil & gas industry supports the majority of the rural economy with its influence on agriculture. By listening to the voices of those who continue to support Trump, it’s clear that these jobs are very important to them. One supporter at a recent rally, Patricia Nana, expresses appreciation for Trump’s concern in saving the jobs of coal miners. Although I think we should do more to mitigate climate change, Democrats won’t be able to pass environmental legislation without plans to provide for the blue-collar Americans who will lose their jobs if the country shifts from traditional to renewable energy. Hillary Clinton rolled out a $30-billion-dollar plan to “help redevelop coal mining communities.” However, this plan sounds unconvincing to the potentially unemployed coal miner and expensive to the average taxpayer. Democrats need to look towards Perkins’s plan and compromise instead — allowing oil technology to continue, while investing in renewables in hope that they become more competitive to sway the rural vote.

    The Democratic Party needs rhetoric that focuses on the workers who depend on the oil & gas industry for their jobs. They need to describe how the job market will successfully transition and how they will prevent displacement of families — in a personable, colloquial manner. Then, once liberals reassure rural America and regain power in Congress, they can argue for a more aggressive policy that implements renewables more quickly and bans fracking. By including rural Americans who felt overlooked by their policies in the last election, Democrats could have a chance to win back the Senate majority in midterm elections. T. Boone Pickens is not to be ignored — in his trade decisions, his energy policy, or just his friendly Texas slang.