STEVE INSKEEP, host:
A who made his fortune investing in oil is now throwing his money into the wind. T. Boone Pickens has not left the oil business, not with prices over $140 per barrel. But today Pickens releases a plan to reduce American dependence on foreign oil. H says he plans to build a gigantic wind farm in the Texas panhandle, which in his mind is part of the solution. Hundreds and eventually thousands of windmills, giant propellers, really, would cover the landscape, each one spinning an electric turbine.
Mr. T. BOONE PICKENS (BP Capital Management): Okay, let me tell you how high they are, Steve. The hub on the turbine is 280 feet. And then you have the radius on the blade of 120 feet. So now you're 400 feet at the tip, which is, you know, you're talking about a 40-story building.
INSKEEP: And you're talking about hundreds of those. It looks like a Manhattan of wind turbines, basically.
Mr. PICKENS: Oh, you're talking about when we finish the project - 4,000 megawatts - there'll be 2,500 turbines.
INSKEEP: Goodness. Can you help me convert these megawatts into terms that people can follow? I mean, can you use wind to generate enough power to light up New York City, light up Los Angeles? How much are we talking about here?
Mr. PICKENS: Well, the 4,000 megawatts that we're doing will service 1,300,000 homes.
INSKEEP: Good sized city, basically.
Mr. PICKENS: That's right.
INSKEEP: And you believe that this is something that can be replicated all across the United States or all across the central United States anyway?
Mr. PICKENS: Steve, let me tell you. There's one study that North Dakota has enough wind and enough country to put the turbines on that could supply all the electricity for the United States. We've made a huge mistake here. And the mistake was made because we didn't have the leadership that stepped up and said, We cannot continue to import foreign oil.
INSKEEP: Well, help us understand another basic if you can, T. Boone Pickens, because you're talking about wind turbines that generate electricity. How would electricity in your mind replace the oil that is refined to run cars or to make any number of products all across the economy?
Mr. PICKENS: If you look at the pie for power generation, wind is almost insignificant at this point. The biggest power generation fuel is coal. It's generating about 50 percent, 20 percent nuke, and 22 percent natural gas and miscellaneous hydro and other. I would like to get that natural gas out of power generation and get it over to transportation fuel. I'm not opposed to plug-in hybrids, let me tell you. I'm for everything, and I'm against one thing, is the import of foreign oil.
INSKEEP: Are you still investing on the assumption that the price of oil is going to go even higher than it's gone to date?
Mr. PICKENS: Yes, I am. The way this is going to unfold - there's only 85 million barrels.
INSKEEP: Per day.
Mr. PICKENS: Yeah. And you have 86, 87 demand. OK. Eighty-five won't cover the 86. So what happens is you pull out inventory to cover it, and it gets more and more expensive the tighter the market gets. Now, we've responded in this country. We understand what's happening to us is that gasoline is getting more and more expensive, so we cut back on demand. Now, you say, OK, well, the price should be coming down then. No. China has picked up what we have come off.
INSKEEP: So we're conserving and not getting any benefit from it?
Mr. PICKENS: That's right. You know, if it was ours, it would be one thing. It's not ours.
INSKEEP: Do you still think, Mr. Pickens, that it is unlikely, even at these prices, it's going to be possible to produce dramatically more oil per day in five years, ten years, if the oil companies...
Mr. PICKENS: No. See, I think the 85 million is - that's the best you can do. I think the Saudis - they're talking about going up to 12 and a half million barrels. We'll see. I don't believe that. They have 125 rigs operating in Saudi Arabia today, which is four times more than they've ever had in the history of the country. And they're having a very hard time getting to nine and a half million barrels a day.
I've been in this business, you know, for almost 60 years. I know what we're up against. I'm sitting here at 80, probably be my last shot at influencing something would be good for the country. So I want to take my chance here.
INSKEEP: T. Boone Pickens, always good to talk with you.
Mr. PICKENS: You bet, Steve.
INSKEEP: T. Boone Pickens chairs the hedge fund BP Capital Management.