T. Boone Pickens, head of the energy-oriented investment firm BP (Boone Pickens) Capital Management, sees the world's pending oil crisis in pretty stark black-and-white terms.
"We are dependent on the enemy for oil," Pickens said in Dallas during his keynote address at the ninth annual shipper symposium sponsored by Frisco, Texas-based third-party logistics company Transplace.
"The enemy" in Pickens' eyes is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, commonly known as OPEC. Pickens even went so far as to assert that oil purchased from OPEC finds its way to Taliban forces loyal to the al Qaeda terrorist organization.
"I don't think [OPEC nations] are friends of ours," he said. "They have oil, and we want it, so we naturally do business with each other. But they are not our friends."
Pickens was at the symposium as part of the ongoing push for his "Pickens Plan," which calls for investing $1 trillion in wind farms that would eventually replace natural gas as a primary energy source. Natural gas supplies would then be freed up to power trucks and other heavy-duty equipment. The overarching objective is to wean the U.S. off its dependence on foreign oil.
Pickens believes the United States has a 100- to 200-year supply of natural gas due in part to recent successes in developing large fields of shale gas. "Natural gas is cheaper, cleaner, and more abundant than oil," said Pickens.
Pickens noted that many municipalities have begun to switch their fleets of buses, garbage trucks, and other equipment to natural gas. However, he said the freight transport sector must buy in to the concept for it to truly gain traction.
"Yesterday, I spoke to the trash guys," Pickens told the audience at the Transplace symposium. "They use 2 billion gallons of oil [a year]. You use 35 billion gallons."
Pickens' plan has been dismissed by some as too costly and, from the standpoint of using wind power as a primary energy source, logistically and technologically unfeasible. It received substantial media exposure during the 2008 spike in oil prices, but fell off the radar after oil prices plunged in the 2008-09 downturn.
Pickens cited data showing that the U.S. consumes 25 percent of the world's oil production, and imports 65 percent of its oil, with 38 percent of that coming from OPEC nations.
"This is a huge transfer of wealth, the greatest in the history of mankind," said Pickens. "And it doesn't have to happen. We have resources in America that could offset our imports of 5 million barrels a day from OPEC."
In his speech, Pickens framed his plan as both an economic necessity and a patriotic call to arms.
"I'm asking you to investigate, look and see, because you might find that it's substantially cheaper, one, and two, you're on domestic fuel, so we're fixing two problems at one time," he said.
Pickens' company Clean Energy Fuels, which provides natural gas fuel for transportation, was the Symposium's signature sponsor.