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Marketplace Morning Report

T. Boone Pickens: ‘Natural gas has been a disaster’

Jeremy Hobson May 21, 2012
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Jeremy Hobson: The price of oil is right around $92 a barrel in New York trading this morning. That’s down from it’s recent peak above $100 a barrel, and the drop is mostly due to concerns about a slowdown in the global economy. But as oil prices have see-sawed and brought gasoline prices along with them, Americans haven’t flocked to alternative fuels like natural gas in a big way — at least not as much as billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens expected us to.

After being one of the industry’s biggest boosters, he has gotten out of natural gas stocks all together. Joining us now from Dallas is T. Boone Pickens. Good morning.

T. Boone Pickens: Good morning, Jeremy.

Hobson: You recently got out of Chesapeake Energy, a big natural gas producer. Why did you do that?

Pickens: Because natural gas has been a disaster. It’ll be great at some point, but today it’s trading at $2.37, and that’s pretty cheap.

Hobson: People are going to look at that and they’ll say, you know, ‘He was really hot on natural gas, then he got out of it — just like he was big on wind, and that didn’t turn out to be so good.’ What do you think is going wrong here? Why are these alternative fuels not as popular as you think they’ll be?

Pickens: Well these fuels, you’re not going to move into wind until natural gas gets up $6. OK, so wind’s on the shelf. And you’ve got natural gas, they’re moving into fuel about as fast as they can go to it. It’s a $1.50, $2 a gallon cheaper than diesel, and you have the trucks switching over to it.

Hobson: But even with oil as high as it is, and gas prices as high as they are, it does seem like Americans are sticking with the good, old-fashioned stuff that they know.

Pickens: Americans now — I’m talking about truckers and you’re talking about you. I mean, your car, you’re not going to switch to natural gas until you have an infrastructure that’ll accommodate it.

Hobson: Right.

Pickens: Now with truckers, not so. A trucker’s not ever going to buy a truck unless he has a place to fuel it, and those are going into Pilot Flying J truck stops — they’re building 100 of them right now. So that’s happening very fast.

Hobson: You’ve been in the business for decades now. Did you —

Pickens: Decades, for sure.

Hobson: Did you think decades ago that in 2012, we would still be addicted to foreign oil the way that we were back in the ’70s?

Pickens: Well, no, I didn’t think that’d be the case. But we have just sat there because of cheap gasoline over the years. We have no energy plan for the country. It’s pitiful; we’re using 25 percent of all the oil produced in the world every day.

Hobson: Do you think that Washington is ever going to get an energy policy together that you will think is a good one?

Pickens: Whether we do or we don’t, I’ve had about all this I want to fool with.

Hobson: What do you mean you’ve had all this you want to fool with?

Pickens: I mean, a Washington deal is a great amount — so much time is wasted. Very little’s accomplished. It is absolutely the saddest place to go and try to get something done.

Hobson: Do you know who you’re going to be voting for this year?

Pickens: Oh, I haven’t. I’ll only say this: I’ve never voted for Democrat in my life for president.

Hobson: All right.

Pickens: If that’ll help you.

Hobson: OK. Billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens, thanks so much for talking with us.

Pickens: OK, thank you.

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