July 28, 2008

T. Boone Pickens, Energy Leaders, Politicians Share Ideas

By Jerry Shottenkirk

There's been no shortage of T. Boone Pickens in the national news recently, and most people connected to energy are fine with that.

The 80-year-old investment giant recently revealed his formula to rescue the country from its dependence on foreign oil. He's had his successes and people in the know are willing to listen.

The country's lack of a long-term energy plan has brought on several ideas from investors, oilmen and politicians.

Pickens spent part of last week on Capitol Hill and has invested $58 million on a wind power publicity tour de force. He believes in it, and he's put some his money behind it.

Also, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Commission, recently introduced the "Drive America on Natural Gas Act" and has called for the end to the prohibition of oil drilling on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf and other protected areas.

Pickens is developing wind energy and told government officials the U.S. could wean itself off foreign oil if it would develop wind energy and use natural gas to power vehicles. He called for the government to construct lines for the transmission of wind power. Pickens has an interest - he'll invest billions in wind power. But he's also an oilman and said he knows alternatives are needed.

Inhofe supported President Bush's four-point plan for energy, which would open the Outer Continental Shelf, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, develop American's oil shales and expand refining capacity.

The U.S. Geological Survey last week said the area north of the Arctic Circle contains approximately 90 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil, 44 million barrels of natural gas liquid and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas.

"Before we can make decisions about our future use of oil and gas and related decisions about protecting endangered species, native communities and the health of our planet, we need to know what's out there," said USGS Director Mark Myers. "With this assessment, we're providing the same information to everyone in the world so that the global community can make those difficult decisions."

Inhofe said additional drilling is what's needed the most.

"By a margin of more than 4-to-1, Americans surveyed supported the U.S. tapping into its own domestic energy reserves, including the oil and coal it already has here in the United States, in order to combat the rising cost of energy and reduce dependence on foreign energy sources," Inhofe said.

Bruce Bell, chairman emeritus of the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, said all sources of energy should be further developed.

Bell said he supports Pickens' drive to convince Americans to move away from the dependence on oil and move toward natural gas, which would be used to fire power plants and energy from the plants would be used in electric vehicles.

"The main problem we have to solve now is to keep our vehicles moving on the highway at a reasonable cost," Bell said. "Gasoline, obviously with the scarcity of light sweet crude now, is expensive and it's going to stay expensive. Maybe we'll get back to $3."

The days of cheap gas are long gone, he said.

"As we look forward, there isn't any possibility gasoline for our automobiles and diesel for our trucks is going to come down significantly and stay down," Bell added. "It's just not going to happen with world demand. We need an alternative. We need to find some way to get around this problem."

Advanced drilling technology has enabled companies to move on to more natural gas.

"We have huge amounts of shale with gas in it," Bell said. "We've got more than enough natural gas to fuel all our vehicle fleets and do many of things for decades. People need to understand we need to use every single resource we've got to provide for all our electric needs. "

Bell said drilling for oil will continue, regardless of different ways of powering vehicles.

"As strange as it is for an oilman, wind power is great, nuclear power is great and we need it all," he said. "If you look around the room you're in, about 98 percent of the things in it are influenced by crude oil in one way or another, whether it's components of crude oil in them. All of it has been brought by crude oil, shipping- wise."

Bell said energy companies will adjust accordingly.

"Oil companies are going to be doing just fine," Bell said. "They are not going to be hurt by having a lot of wind-generated electricity or more nuclear power. Most people in the oil business recognize it."

There has been some price relief to consumers over the past week. Crude oil has dropped more than $20 per barrel (to under $125) and prices at the pump have followed accordingly.

The national average for unleaded gas dropped to $4 per gallon and is down 11 cents in a week. Oklahoma drivers are paying on average $3.77. Gas in Oklahoma City is averaging $3.64 and Tulsa is at $3.79.

Originally published by Jerry Shottenkirk.

(c) 2008 Journal Record - Oklahoma City. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.