T. Boone Pickens on natural gas, leadership in Washington

Legendary Texas oil and gas executive T. Boone Pickens still firmly believes that natural gas is the way to help America become less dependent on foreign oil.

In the opening session of the fourth annual Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference (CVOC) held last week in Dallas, Texas, he said the nation's shale gas reserves are even more plentiful than originally thought - now estimated at around 4,000 trillion barrels - and will be able to supply the nation's needs for "well over 100 years."

The CVOC brings together thought leaders from all segments of the trucking industry to share real-world insights on the state of the industry and discuss what steps can be taken to survive and thrive going forward.

It was Pickens, who in 2008, announced The Pickens Plan which had several pillars, including:

- Use America's abundant natural gas to replace imported oil as a transportation fuel.

- Build a 21st century backbone electrical transmission grid.

- Develop renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

No energy plan

The U.S. has more natural gas than anyone, "so we don't have to do business with anyone we don't want to," Pickens stated, and singled out OPEC, which, he said, gives some of the money it earns selling oil to the Taliban. "So why are we buying dirtier, more costly oil from the enemy."

The reason, he opined, is "lack of leadership in Washington, DC."

Every president since Nixon has said, "Elect me and we will be energy independent," yet not one has offered a plan, noted Pickens, a self-made billionaire. "We still do not have a comprehensive energy plan and we still are not energy independent."

Pickens said that Sen. Harry Reid, D.-Nev. is currently working on a bill to put natural gas development and infrastructure on the fast track, and the legislation could include tax credits to speed the process even more.

Environmental damage

Pickens also said concerns about environmental damage from fracking are unfounded.

Basically, fracking, also called horizontal drilling, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth that were once unreachable with conventional technologies.

Now, new drilling technology allows for the injection of highly pressurized fracking fluids into the shale area. This creates new channels within the rock from which natural gas is extracted at higher than traditional rates.

"There is no evidence that fracking is causing problems," he said. "I saw my first frack job in the 1950s" and since then there have "been thousands and thousands of wells drilled through the nation's largest aquifer and there have been no problems."

Natural gas will become "monumental" in the next few years, predicted Pickens, and the use of this fuel will grow exponentially for transportation use.

Diesel and natural gas are both commodities and both will do the same thing, he said, But natural gas will always be cheaper than diesel.