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Pickens says governors have better grasp of energy than Obama

Published June 27, 2013 8:26 am

Energy • Billionaire to tell state leaders that natural gas, domestic energy resources are keys to the future.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens says President Barack Obama has no real plan on how to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. So he is traveling to Utah to ask Western governors to help lead that fight.

"We've been able to accomplish more with governors than we have with Washington," Pickens said in a telephone interview.

Pickens — chairman and CEO of BP Capital, a hedge fund that trades in energy commodities — will be a keynote speaker Friday in Park City at a convention of the Western Governors' Association, which is chaired by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

Pickens will continue his five-year push to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil through his "Pickens Plan," which calls for such things as more use of natural gas in vehicles.

Pickens said that Obama, in a speech this week calling for greater efforts to stop climate change by steps such as reducing use of fossil fuels, spoke "in kind of vague generalities, but he never gives you a plan for how to solve it. ... We're the only country in the world without an energy plan, and we've never had one under Republicans or Democrats."

Pickens complained that Obama "has kind of an idealistic view of energy. He speaks of renewables — wind and solar — as getting us off foreign oil. Well, wind and solar do nothing for transportation. We run very few vehicles on electricity.... Seventy percent of all the oil we use every day goes to transportation."

He said only diesel and natural gas have the power to fuel large trucks. So to reduce dependence on foreign oil that produces diesel, he said it makes sense to convert to greater use of natural gas — which is plentiful in the U.S.

Govenors, he said, understand that. "I'll be speaking to a friendly audience."

Environmental groups disagree with assertions that Obama has no real plan.

"There is an absence of leadership [on climate change] from utilities, where it should be coming from," Christopher Thomas, executive director of HEAL Utah, said. "In absence of that, Washington had to step in and limit carbon pollution because so much is at stake."

Sarah Wright, director of Utah Clean Energy, said Obama's speech this week laid out "very aggressive strategies for increasing energy efficiencies," and he has helped vastly increase the use of alternative energy in his term. She said solutions will require "collaboration between governors and the president."

Pickens said states have started changing "some archaic laws as far as taxing liquefied natural gas at a higher rate than diesel." He contends that liquefied natural gas is being overtaxed by 1.7 times at both the federal and state level, compared with diesel. "I'm hoping we'll even see more states join in that effort" to equalize taxes.

He also said he hopes more states will lead by converting more of their fleets to natural gas. "Some of them are doing that," he said. "That's leadership."

Pickens says he worries that many companies are talking about exporting domestic natural gas to markets where they can obtain a higher price. But he would like to see policies that promote use of natural gas here to increase demand and use a resource that Americans control, not enemies.

"Any money that goes to OPEC, some part of it is going to the Taliban. ... We've got to be crazy to do that," he said.

"I could understand if you had to do it," he said, but adds that America wouldn't if it used more natural gas, developed more oil on federal lands and used the proposed Keystone pipeline to bring oil from friendly neighbor Canada.

"The reason it hasn't been accomplished is because leadership in Washington hasn't understood: One, the questions; and two, the solutions," he said.

Pickens said he is not just pushing for natural gas. "I don't care as long as it is domestic," he said — adding it may be wise to streamline federal regulations that delay or make difficult drilling on federal lands.

"Just get off OPEC oil because you are paying for both sides of the war," spending billions to keep the U.S. Navy in the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East to protect oil being shipped through there.

"We get 10 percent, and the rest goes to China, Europe and the rest of the world. You really have to scratch your head," he said.

Pickens added, "Get on your own resources. There isn't a country in the world that's on their own resources that isn't doing well. You can cut out two-thirds of the trade deficit by getting on energy that's available to us in this country."

ldavidson@sltrib.com

Western Governors' Association

T. Boone Pickens is scheduled to give the keynote address Friday at the WGA conference in Park City.

Others on the agenda include U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell; Bob Perciasepe, the acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.