A Conversation with T. Boone Pickens: Tonight Is about Opportunities

Often, when people talk about T. Boone Pickens–the featured guest at the AMS Annual Meeting special session at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Ballroom D)–they remind you that he got his start as a paper boy. At age 12, Pickens took a newspaper route with 28 deliveries and turned it, through merger and acquisition, into a conglomerate of 156. A penchant for rapid expansion through acquisition was born, and the result was an investor-corporate dynamo.
But we’re AMS, so we’re not here to talk about how he made his billions with Mesa Petroleum or BP Capital Management. Tonight AMS Policy Director William Hooke will undoubtedly ask Pickens how he intends to make his next billion, and–from everything Pickens is saying–he’s going to do it by taking advantage of what science is telling him.

In that regard, Pickens is clearly not the common businessman. He explains, “The gambling instincts I inherited from my father were matched by my mother’s gift for analysis.”
So, instead of paper routes and corporate raiding, we’re going to remind you that T. Boone Pickens got his start in the oil business with a Bachelor’s Degree in geology. Indeed, while Pickens is the kind of businessman who takes opportunities where he sees them, usually that means seeing the big processes, the glacial but inevitable trends and not just the ephemera blowing in the wind. Actually, he also lost $150 million on wind energy already–abandoning one-time plans to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas–and so in that sense no one is better qualified than Pickens to kick off the intensive discussions this week about how our science is working to make renewable energy a better bet these days.
Right now, the big picture is telling Pickens that natural gas is the alternative fuel of choice, as a means of ending American dependence on imported energy resources.

As ever, energy is, for Pickens, an opportunity, but it’s also about the big picture–really the biggest picture of where society is heading economically, strategically, politically, socially, geophysically. For us, then, the strategic move is to capitalize not on what science has to tell business, but on what business has to tell science, tonight, in Ballroom D.