National Press Club

Turner, Pickens urge quick climate action to save nation, planet

April 19, 2011 | By Robert Webb |

Ted Turner (l) and T. Boone Pickens

Ted Turner (l) and T. Boone Pickens

Photo/Image: Al Teich

Billionaires Ted Turner and T. Boone Pickens called for quick action by Congress and the American people on energy and climate change to help save the nation and planet at an April 19 National Press Club luncheon.

Pickens, a legendary oil man who chairs the hedge fund BP Capital Management, was once skeptical about climate change but said he now believes it to be a real threat.

He has major concerns with "what is going into the atmosphere," he told a packed ballroom.

Turner, founder and former head of CNN and also former owner of the Atlanta Braves, has turned his attention to the nation's energy needs and climate change.

The joint luncheon began with Turner describing his effort to eliminate nuclear weapons, which he called the greatest threat to the "survival of the human race."

"The United Nations voted unanimously to get rid of all nuclear weapons," he said. But little has been done to implement the directive, he added.

Turner also urged an end to the world's runaway polpulaton growth.

"We have one billion people going hungry," he said. "In a few years it will be three billion starving every year. Oceans are collapsing (as food providers) from being over fished, and land is being over an unsustainable way."

Turner and Pickens agreed natural gas is part of the solution to the United States' energy problem, which has been dramatized lately by rising gasoline prices.

But Turner sees natural gas as only a "bridge fuel."

"In 20 years there will be no fossil fuel," said Turner, who asserted that cars will run on electricity in 20 years. "We need renewable energy for a world without pollution, so kids won't get asthma."

Pickens strongly criticized U.S. dependence on imported oil, which is now $100 per barrel.

"We are four percent of the world's population but use 45 percent of its oil," Pickens said, noting that 70 percent goes into transportation. He also rapped imported diesel and applauded California's effort to reduce the number of trucks using it.

A strong advocate of wind farms and solar energy, Pickens lamented Congress' failure to advance those issues.

"But when oil reaches $400 a barrel, we'll get action," he said. "All candidates say if they are elected they will stop our dependence on foreign oil -- but after their election do nothing." He put President Barack Obama in that category.

Turner said he supports "anything American to replace OPEC oil."

Pickens said he had "met with the Saudis, and they confessed if America became less dependent on them, they would lower their price."

Both men held oil and coal interest groups responsible for much of the nation's energy and climate change problems.

"The oil and coal lobbies have done a masterful job of confusing everybody," Turner said. "If Obama had put energy (needs) and climate change ahead of the health care plan, we'd have it now."

Their remarks, spiced with frequent humor, revealed their agreement on most issues regarding climate and energy issues.

Near the end of the program, Pickens saluted Turner "for doing more to open up the world (through CNN and other media activity) than anyone I have ever seen."