T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire founder, chairman and CEO of hedge fund BP Capital, may be one of the most outspoken insiders in the energy industry. Never one to shy away from controversy, Pickens eagerly discussed “fracking,” Oklahoma earthquakes and his decision to get out of wind energy in an interview at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2013. Last year the business magnate and entrepreneur said Charles and David Koch were the “biggest deterrent” to a national energy policy.
Here’s what he told us this year at the Beverly Hilton:
Pickens refutes charges that hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” has damaged the environment and caused earthquakes in Oklahoma, Ohio and Pennsylvsania. Pickens, who went on his first “frack” job in 1952, says he’s “had no environmental issues” with the more than 2,000 wells he’s fracked over the years.
“You’re not damaging anything,” he declares. “Nobody gives any evidence you’re damaging anything.”
Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals at enormous pressure underground to extract gas and oil from shale rock formations.
While Pickens does not believe fracking induces earthquakes, some scientists do. A 2012 report by the National Academies of Science found that "underground injection of wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing and other energy technologies has a higher risk of causing" earthquakes.
Oklahoma, for instance, has seen a sharp rise in seismic activity because of deep underground natural drilling, according to a scientific report published in the journal Geology. In 2009 the state experienced more than 1,000 earthquakes compared to the yearly average of 50. Scientists now say Oklahoma’s largest earthquake in 2011 – with a 5.7 magnitude that was felt in at least 17 states – was likely caused by fracking and underground disposal of wastewater.
As for the shocking images of Pennsylvania residents lighting their drinking water on fire in Josh Fox’s documentary “Gasland,” Pickens again dismisses any connections to fracking.
“Gas was seeping into an aquifer, which happens continually in the earth’s crust…it has nothing to do with fracking or gas wells,” he says.
Environmentalists and opponents of fracking say the technique contaminates groundwater, pollutes the air and disrupts, degrades and threatens wild lands.
U.S. Energy Policy
Pickens says the U.S. has the cheapest energy in the world because the oil and natural gas industries have found “so much” of these resources domestically.
The nation could be energy independent – and permanently end shipments of overseas oil – if not for a “lack of leadership” in Washington, Pickens emphasizes.
Natural Gas Trucks
Pickens says there could be eight million 18-wheeler trucks running on natural gas in the next three to five years.
Natural gas makes economic sense, Pickens argues, because trucking companies could save $2 per gallon or $60,000 a year on fuel costs (based on an 18-wheeler that guzzles 30,000 gallons of diesel a year).
According to The New York Times, UPS plans to increase its fleet of trucks that use liquefied natural gas to 800 from 112 by the end of 2014. Pickens sits on the board of Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CLNE), the largest provider of natural gas fuel in North America and operator of 400 natural gas filling stations in the U.S.
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