Park City • Billionaire T. Boone Pickens may not look like a typical missionary. But he told Western governors Friday that he is one who is pushing a different kind of gospel and he needs them as converts.
"I knew someday I'd get a mission. I'm not a Mormon, so I didn't get it there," Pickens told the Western Governors' Association. His mission instead: "Get off OPEC oil."
"When you're buying oil from OPEC, you've got to know that part of what you pay for the oil goes to the Taliban. So I think we have been very stupid in paying for both sides of the war," he told a WGA convention at the Montage Deer Valley hotel. That group has focused on energy during the past year, with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert serving as its chairman.
Pickens chairman and CEO of BP Capital, a hedge fund that trades in energy commodities has been pushing his "Pickens Plan" for five years to reduce dependence on OPEC by such actions as using more natural gas. He said Friday that America would also be wise to use more oil from friendly Canada and Mexico, including approving the controversial Keystone pipeline from Canada.
"I'm for anything that's not OPEC," he said. "Those people don't like us. They hate us. And we have people next door who are our friends."
"What we have is 250 billion barrels of oil available to the United States in Canada," which he said is the same size as oil reserves claimed by Saudi Arabia.
He said "it is ridiculous" that the United States has its 5th Fleet in the Strait of Hormuz protecting OPEC oil, and only receives 10 percent of the oil transported through there, but is balking at easy transport through the Keystone pipeline.
Pickens said if the United States would buy more Canadian and Mexican oil, those countries would not need to export it to other countries and "we then are energy independent. ... There's plenty of oil. There's plenty of natural gas, and we would not need OPEC."
Canada's ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, told the governors his country is "all in on energy security in North America and energy sustainability."
Doer added he has been surprised at how difficult it has been to gain approval for the Keystone pipeline. "It's easier to put Crown Royal [whiskey] in a pipeline to Texas than it is oil."
Pickens also pushed the governors to encourage more use of natural gas which Doer seconded, saying that while the United States and Canada have plenty of natural gas, they are like "people [who] have won the lottery but haven't cashed the ticket."
Pickens said Utah, however, seems to be one place that understands the potential of natural gas. "Utah is one of the leaders in that area. Utah has plenty of natural gas. They've been smart enough to use it and capitalize on it."
He noted he spent time in Utah in his early career as a geologist, and as a lover of its ski slopes, and said his oldest daughter attended high school at Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City.
He asked governors to encourage use of natural gas by doing away with taxes in some states that hit natural gas at higher rates than diesel. He asked them to consider tax credits possibly funded by a tax on natural gas to make it easier to afford the initial higher cost of vehicles that use natural gas.
Pickens said his five-year push for more use of natural gas is getting some traction, thanks largely to encouragement by states.
"We are moving to natural gas as a transportation fuel, and we have a president who mentions natural gas every once in a while. But mentioning natural gas without a plan, really, is just a speech," he said. "So we have had no leadership in Washington, or competent leadership. But we have had plenty of leadership in the states."