Interview of T. Boone Pickens, Daily Show 11/12/2008

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T. Boone Pickens was interviewed by Jon Stewart of the Daily show on November 12, 2008 [3]. The following is an original transcript of the interview.

Note: Feel free to annotate, but please maintain NPOV (Neutral Point of View) guidelines.

STEWART: The whole idea of this is... You believe our biggest issue is we got to switch from an oil based fuel economy to natural gas and wind. Is that the gist?

PICKENS: Let me take it a step further.

STEWART: Please.

PICKENS: Ok. That.. What I want is to use our resources in America. What I'm selling is America.

STEWART: So you're saying if cars could run cars on mayonnaise and white bread.

PICKENS: If it comes from America, yes.

STEWART: No imported Mayonaise!

PICKENS: But we have resources here that are so valuable to the country that have never been used: wind, solar, and... We use natural gas... we have an abundance of natural gas which is 80 percent cleaner than diesel. Diesel is foreign, and we can use natural gas - 80 percent cleaner, it's cheaper, and its ours. It's ours.

STEWART: So why haven't we done this? We keep seeing these books... Why do we need a gentleman such as yourself to urge us to do something which so obviously seems in our self interest? What are we not getting? Or what is the government not getting?

PICKENS: Well we went 40 years with no energy plan for america. And now if we.. and we are importing almost 70 percent of our oil.

STEWART: Are you suggesting invading these countries is not a plan?

PICKENS: That... that's the last thing we do. We fix if we can. If we can't we go get it. (laughter)

PICKENS: OK. Now, but what we got is... this is a problem... [turns to the audience]... We got a lot of young people here. This is your problem, not my problem. Let me tell you why that is the case. It is your problem cause I can make it to the finish line. I can. I'm 80 years old.

STEWART: You're 80?

PICKENS: Yeah I'm 80.

STEWART: Why do you look younger than me? What's going on there?

PICKENS: Thank you. That's on the record.

STEWART: Yeah that is on the record. That's going out there. But what can they.. you know.. in their minds.. You know it seems like that everytime gas gets to 4 dollars a gallon, four fifty a gallon- everyone says, "We got to do something", and as soon as you say it, it goes back down to 2 dollars a gallon... It's like these OPEC guys are so smart... it pushes us to the breaking point and then boom.

PICKENS: They do. But it's been a Yo-Yo. In the 70's you had the arab embargo, the price went up, and we started talking about renewables, and the price came down. They gave us more oil, they lowered the market. In the 80s, the 90s and 2000. [hand motion signifying higher levels]. But when we hit hundred dollar oil, that's when all of you went "Whoah-ee I didn't sign up for this." OK. You didn't sign up for it. That's what you're going to have. You'll go back to a hundred dollar oil within a year.

STEWART: What will you adjust to it? Will that become the new

PICKENS: We are going to fix it. We can fix it because we can reduce the dependency on foreign oil by 30 to 50 percent within 10 years. Now 29 percent of our oil comes from our friends- Canada, Mexico, and the UK. But..

STEWART: You can't trust the Canadians with that kind of responsibility.

PICKENS: We don't have any choice. They have the oil.

STEWART: ..they're so sneaky, they look just like us. It's... You can't trust them.

PICKENS: They do. You're right. OK. I used to live in Canada. I lived in Calgary in the 60s. (crowd reaction)

PICKENS: Oh good- from Calgary. Is anyone here from Holdenville, Oklohoma?

STEWART: Only in New York.

PICKENS: Thank you.

STEWART: What can we do to get on that... Do we need to convert our cars to run on natural gas?

PICKENS: You can, but don't.

STEWART: Ok, but then what do you do?

PICKENS: I want the trucks on it. The trucks are the ones to go to the natural gas. You see when people talk about, "we're going to go to the electric car.."- I love it. But remember they said car, not truck. A battery won't move an 18 wheeler.[1] The only thing that will move an 18 wheeler is foreign oil- diesel and gasoline, and our domestic natural gas. There's where the fuel needs to go. Alright now- You as a patriotic American like I am... And this is all about America. That's what I'm talking about. It has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans or anything else. This is about us. And we're going to solve out problems. We will solve our problem. Because we have the resources to do it. We're going to use wind, we're going to use solar, and we're going to use natural gas for transportation fuel. Now what's it going to get us. Now fast forward, let's go fast forward to...

STEWART: Just very quickly now... I feel like right now, I and the rest of my audience would follow you out the building... I mean to hear you talking I mean literally... I'm going like.. [stands up at attention] "SIR, where do we go sir? I'm reporting for duty." So what do we do? If... Usually you see. You see the thirst that people have to change this. They want desperately to help fix this problem.

PICKENS: They want that and another thing. They want leadership.


PICKENS: That's what we all want. Leadership. I think, if I had a whistle I could lead you over the top. I could blow the whistle and say we are going over the top. [2]

STEWART: Take me over the top. Is.. Will this new administration provide...? This is the opportunity...

PICKENS: I hope so.

STEWART: And do you believe... You met some of them, you've talked to some of them, do you believe they will have the wherewithal and the leadership to take us over this hill?

PICKENS: I have a feeling they will.

STEWART: That's exciting to know.

PICKENS: I've had plenty of conversations with them.

STEWART: So you think it's time. Do they believe in this, does this plan line up similarly to what they're talking about?

PICKENS: OK. Senator Obama... the other day a democrat corrected me- I called him the president - Said, "No not yet, that won't come til January 20th."- so, OK.

STEWART: President elect.

PICKENS: Yeah, ok. Senator Obama is ah... He said when he accepted the nomination several months ago, he said we... at the end of 10 years we will not be importing any oil from the mideast. OK.

STEWART: That's great

PICKENS: That's it. Now. Half of the oil we use in america... Excuse me- We import 70 percent- almost 70 percent. Half of that comes from the mideast. Ok. And he wants to cut that off. He said it the second time in the debate with McCain, when Bob Shieffer- the last debate- He said the same thing again. There's only one way that you can cut off the oil in that amount. But you can do it. And that is, with the only resource we have in America that will cut it off, which is natural gas. Ok. So he understands by saying that- he knows how we are going to do it. Now I have people say, "You know, Boone.." that a plug in hybrid is the way to go. It's a good way to go. You can't get the numbers.


PICKENS: You can't get the numbers...

STEWART: Trucks- natural gas...

PICKENS: You got to go.. But- and remember the plug in hybrid is for light weight vehicles. [3]

STEWART: Well let's just hope that his suggestion was that we're not going to get off it because we are all walking.

PICKENS: That's right. No- we're... In America we're going to walk wen we want to walk, not because we have to walk."


  1. This is factually incorrect. During WWI, batteries could move ships weighing 920 tons 60 miles. Our technology is somewhat more advanced than 1917, so on the face of it, Pickens's quip is false. The Pickens advocate might fall back to existing technology, but the electric automotive technology does exist- the military's heavy mover, the HEMTT has a serial hybrid version. [1] All that is missing is adding sufficient batteries for long haul applications. So the Pickens advocate would next have to fall back the assertion that such a vehicle would not be economical. Even this is debatable. An 18 wheeler can get as low as 4mpg and generally have 300 gallon tanks. A 200 gallon capacity would require a 2000 KWHs from the grid, and at 80% charging efficiency would require of 1600 kwhs of capacity, and assuming that the batteries could not be discharged more than 50%, then 3200 kwhs of battery capacity would be required. GM calculates 63 cents per Watt hour of battery capacity is the cost of their batteries, so the battery cost of an 18 wheeler would be about 2 million dollars. Since the life expectancy of an 18 wheeler is about 2 million miles [2], assuming that diesel fuel averages $4 per gallon and that 18 wheelers get an average 7MPG, then the vehicle will use 285,714 gallons of fuel. At a national average of 9 cents per KWH of gasoline, the cost of the 2.85 million KWHs would be $257,142. In Europe where diesel three months ago cost $9 per gallon, the fuel cost over the vehicle lifetime would be $2.571 million dollars. Minus the cost of the batter and the cost of electricity, the owner would be ahead by $314K. Possibly Pickens could make the argument that diesel will not cost that much in the coming decade, or that natural gas will cost less than foreign diesel. But he is not making that argument, nor providing the facts to back up the assertion.
  2. Whistle blows from a comander prior to "Going over the top" is a reference to trench warfare. The allusion might have been inadvertent since the imagery is widely associated with tragic waste and failed leadership. The "men with the whistles" in WWI are regarded by many historians as having been guilty of the worst form of leadership, rigidly adhering to dogma on tactics learned from prior wars, and incapable of learning how technology had made "going over the top" nothing less than a ritualistic slaughter of a generation of Europe's best and brightest who were eager to follow such leaders for the greater good. From the standpoint of political literature, the meme is especially ironic, and if followed would imply the death of hope for this century as it was at the same point in the early 2oth century.
  3. The assertion that electricity is ill suited to heavy vehicles is controversial. Widespread use of Hybrid electric buses weighing in excess of 12 tons predated wide usage of hybrid light vehicles such as the Toyota Prius. Heavy delivery vehicles from Mitusbishi and Mercedes also predated light hybrids because they were able to carry the earlier, cheaper, and much heavier NIMH batteries. The US military is also buying heavy hybrids such asthe hybrid version of the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck for both fuel economy and stealth characteristics (low heat signature in electric only mode). As a counterpoint to Picken's position, hybrid advocates point out that while heavy vehicles over longer hauls require more batteries, because the fuel savings per vehicle mile is correspondingly high, the payback period is the same or better.

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