T. Boone Pickens
T. Boone Pickens
10th United States Secretary of Energy
Assumed office:
January 20, 2001
Presidents: John McCain
George W. Bush
Preceded by: Bill Richardson
Born: May 22, 1928 (age 81)
Holdenville, Oklahoma, U.S.A.
Nationality: US flag 51 stars American
Political party: 25px Republican
Spouse:Lynne O'Brien (div., four children)
Beatrice Carr (m. 1972, div. 1998)
Madeleine Paulson (m. 2005)
Children: Four children
Residence: Dallas, Texas (private)
Alma mater: Oklahoma A&M College - Stillwater
Occupation: Politician, financier, chairman of BP Capital Management

Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr. (born May 22, 1928 in Holdenville, Oklahoma), known as T. Boone Pickens, is the tenth and current United States Secretary of Energy. Before that, he was an American financier who chaired the hedge fund BP Capital Management. He was a well-known takeover operator during the 1980s. His takeovers put many independent oil producers out of business. With an estimated current net worth of about $3 billion, he was ranked by Forbes as the 117th-richest person in America and ranked 369th in the world.

In office, the energy policies of the United States has changed dramatically, as increased focus was put on alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and nuclear power, as well as focusing on breaking the dependence on foreign fuels. Pickens supported McCain's assessment that the U.S. dependence on foreign oil is a major strategic vulnerability, a serious threat to American security, economy and the well-being of the plane," explicitly connecting energy independence with national security, climate change, and the environment.

Early life

His father worked as an oil and mineral landman (rights leaser). During World War II, his mother ran the local Office of Price Administration, rationing gasoline and other goods in four counties. Pickens was the first child born via Caesarean section in the history of Holdenville hospital.

At age 12, Pickens delivered newspapers. He quickly expanded his newspaper route from 28 papers to 156. Pickens later cited his boyhood job as an early introduction to "expanding quickly by acquisition," a business practice he favored later in life.

When the oil boom in Oklahoma ended in the late 1930s, Pickens' family moved to Amarillo, Texas. Pickens never served in the military but instead attended Texas A&M on a basketball scholarship but lost the scholarship and transferred to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University), where he majored in Geology and was also a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. He graduated from Oklahoma A&M with a degree in geology in 1951. Following his graduation, Pickens was employed by Phillips Petroleum. He worked for Phillips until 1954. In 1956, following his period as a wildcatter, he founded the company that would later become Mesa Petroleum.


Before reaching the age of 40, Pickens led Mesa's first big acquisition, the Hugoton Production Company, which was 30 times the size of Mesa.

By 1981, Mesa had grown into one of the largest independent oil companies in the world, and Pickens shifted his focus to acquiring other oil and gas companies. He spent much of the decade targeting undervalued companies, making solicited and unsolicited buyout bids and other merger and acquisition activity. This made Pickens a celebrity during the 'deal-making' 80s. His most publicized deals included attempted buyouts of Cities Service, Gulf Oil, Phillips Petroleum, and Unocal. During this period, Mesa did complete successful acquisitions of Pioneer Petroleum and the mid-continent assets of Tenneco.

These as well as other deals placed Pickens at the center of controversy during the 80s. His celebrity rose so quickly after the Gulf Oil takeover bid that he appeared on the cover of Time magazine and briefly considered running for president in the 1988 elections. During this period, he was often characterized as a corporate raider and greenmailer, as many of his deals were not completed though Pickens and the shareholders he represented received substantial profits through the eventual sale of their stock. His later takeover targets included Newmont Mining, a New York-based firm, Diamond Shamrock, and Koito Mfg., Ltd., a Japanese auto-parts manufacturer, making substantial gains in the process. He was also involved in the creation of the United Shareholders Association (USA), which from 1986–1993 attempted to influence the governance of several large companies. After nearly two years of periodic hearing and debate, in July 1998 the Securities and Exchange Commission voted 4–1 to approve a one-share, one-vote rule, a primary USA objective.

On the local level, Pickens chaired the Board of Regents of West Texas State University in Canyon and in 1987–1988 contributed to the restoration of the administration building known as "Old Main". He was also active in the Republican Party in Potter County. Pickens organized a campaign in the mid-1980s against the Amarillo Globe-News newspaper, for what he claimed was inaccurate reporting about his deals and Mesa. Although the newspaper owner, Morris Communications, replaced its publisher twice during the conflict, Pickens' attempts to have the paper change its editorial policy failed. Shortly thereafter, in 1989, Pickens and Mesa moved to a suburb of Dallas.

In 1997 Pickens founded BP Capital Management (then called BP Energy Fund) — the initials standing for "Boone Pickens" and not related to British Petroleum. He holds a 46% interest in the company which runs two hedge funds, Capital Commodity and Capital Equity, both of which invest primarily in traditional energy companies such as oil, natural gas, and nuclear power corporations like Halliburton, Schlumberger, and Shaw Group.

Natural gas

Pickens has been speaking out on the issue of peak oil, claiming that world oil production is about to enter a period of irrevocable decline. He has called for the construction of more nuclear power plants, the use of natural gas to power the country's transportation systems, and the promotion of alternative energy. Pickens' involvement with the natural gas fueling campaign is long-running. He formed Pickens Fuel Corp. in 1997 and began touting natural gas as the best vehicular fuel alternative because it is a domestic resource that, among many advantages, is cleaner-burning (Natural Gas Vehicles or NGVs emit up to 30% less pollution than gasoline or diesel vehicles) and reduces foreign oil consumption. Reincorporated as Clean Energy in 2001, the company now owns and operates natural gas fueling stations from British Columbia to the Mexican border.

Political interests and contributions

Since 1980, Pickens has made over $5 million in political donations. He was a financial supporter of President John McCain during his 2000 presidential campaign and contributed heavily to both his Arizona and national political campaigns, and the Texas campaign in paricular.

Secretary of Energy

McCain Administration

T. Boone Pickens was appointed Secretary of Energy by the incoming McCain administration on January 5, 2001, a post he maintained throughout John McCain's two terms in office.

In office, the energy policies of the United States changed dramatically, as increased focus was put on alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and nuclear power, as well as focusing on breaking the dependence on foreign fuels, particularily from the Middle East and South America. Pickens supported McCain's assessment that the U.S. dependence on foreign oil is a major strategic vulnerability, a serious threat to American security, economy and the well-being of the plane," explicitly connecting energy independence with national security, climate change, and the environment.

Eisenhower Energy Policy Act

On May 12, 2001 President McCain and Secretary of Energy Pickens began a comprehensive overhaul of U.S energy policy by signing a bill funding the Eisenhower Energy Policy Act, a national program that would allow the government and the private sector to work together to cut U.S. dependence on foreign fuels by 75% by the year 2025. The components of the program included:

  • expanding domestic oil and natural gas exploration and production,
  • taking action to break U.S. dependency on foreign oil by reforming the transportation sector,
  • taking action to break U.S. dependency on particularily Saudi Arabian oil by increasing trade with oil and natural gas with democratic countries such as Norway
  • investing in nuclear technology
  • investing in clean, alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar power.
  • utilization of clean coal technology.
  • protecting the environment by addressing climate change,
  • promoting energy efficiency,
  • addressing speculative pricing of oil.

On September 19, 2006, Pickens told CNBC that the price of oil could rise to $100. "Demand is up and supply is flat, so it's got to go on up," Pickens said, continuing that "it is thus even more important that we must break the dependence on foreign fuels and set our focus on domestic energy prouduction, as well as wind, solar and nuclear energy." On January 2, 2008, the first contract for $100 bbl oil was sold on the NYMEX exchange. In early July 2008, the price of oil briefly closed above $145 per barrel.

The Pickens Plan

On July 8, 2006, Secretary of Energy T. Boone Pickens announced a major energy policy plan called the Pickens Plan. The plan promotes alternatives to foreign oil, including natural gas, wind, and solar energy. A major feature of the plan is replacing the 22% of its electricity that the United States gets from natural gas with wind energy, which would then allow that natural gas to provide 38% of the nation's fuel for transportation and reduce its dependence on foreign oil. This along with better harnessing of nuclear power, much as Europe has managed to do, and the construction of 45 new nuclear reactors to be built in the United States by 2025. The Pickens Plan called for the United States to utilize its wind corridor in the middle of the country stretching from Texas northerly through the Great Plains to the Canadian border. He noted in Congressional testimony in July 2006 that his plan would generate new jobs and provide economic stimulus to this area, while noting that it would also require new transmission lines which traditionally antagonize some environmentalists and/or nearby populations.

Bush Administration

On December 6, 2008, President-elect Bush announced that T. Boone Pickens would remain in his position as Secretary of Energy during his administration, reportedly for at least the first year of Bush's presidency, should Pickens we willing to do so. Pickens is the fifteenth Cabinet member in history to serve under two Presidents of different parties. One of the first priorities under President George W. Bush’s administration for Pickens will be to continue the implementation of the Eisenhower Energy Policy Act and the Pickens Plan.

Personal life

Since 2005, Pickens has been married to Madeleine Pickens, the widow of Allen E. Paulson who founded Gulfstream Aerospace. She is an activist for wild mustangs and an avid supporter of the R.O.A.M. Act to provide a sanctuary for approximately 33,000 American mustangs. They live in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of north Dallas and own a ranch along the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle. Pickens was earlier divorced from Nelda Cain, Beatrice Carr and from Lynn O'Brien.

As of 2009 Pickens had five children and twelve grandchildren.

In December 2008, the Texas Legislative Conference honored Pickens as its "Texan of the Year."

See also

Political offices
Seal Of Department of Energy Preceded by:
Bill Richardson

10th Secretary of Energy
Served under: John McCain
George W. Bush

2001 – present

Order of precedence in the United States of America
Great Seal of the United States (obverse) Preceded by:
Mary Peters
Secretary of Transportation
United States order of precedence
Secretary of Energy
Succeeded by:
Bill Benett
Secretary of Education
United States Presidential Line of Succession
15th in line