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Energy fueling a rural bounceback -- Pickens

The economies of some major ag states in the nation's center are thriving right now, and for a reason other than a healthy farm sector.

Oil and natural gas production capacity in the U.S. has increased over the last three years, the only nation to see such a trend and one that places the nation number-one in the world in production of the latter energy source, says natural gas magnate and BP Capital Management hedge fund chairman T. Boone Pickens, who spoke at the recent Land Investment Expo in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Pickens, a long-time proponent of domestic energy production, said natural gas and oil production in the U.S. has the nation's economy on as strong of footing as it's been in years, especially in states like Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Iowa, where domestic energy -- ranging from fossil fuels to renewables like wind -- is flourishing. Pickens isn't an investor in ethanol or biodiesel, but he says it can complement the nation's growing ability to extract oil and natural gas through new methods.

"It's unbelievable what's happened to our country. We knew that a lot of gas was there, but never imagined the amount. We never figured out we'd find a way to get it out of the soil. Now, we have horizontal drilling. People like to say fracturing. [Lawmakers like to] say hydraulic fracturing was developed by the DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) 30 years ago. I witnessed my first fracturing at Halliburton in 1953, 60 years ago. DOE hadn't seen it for 30 years. Fracturing is incredible -- there are a million wells from Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma that have been fracturing. There's no complaint of fracturing in those wells. There have been 800,000 wells drilled through that aquifer, and nobody complains about it damaging the aquifer," Pickens says, referencing the Ogallalah Aquifter that runs under much of those High Plains states.

The Oklahoma native says continued technology development will be critical to the nation's continued energy production expansion. And, that will best come via strong political leadership, he adds.

"We're the only country in the world where our oil production capacity's increased over the last three years. We are number-one in the world in natural gas, and we produce 8 million gallons of oil a day," he says. "You're in this period and we're going to be in it an extended period of time -- the cheapest energy in the world. Cheap energy will start to overwhelm cheap labor. You're going to have a comeback.

"When you look around the country, most problems that happened in some areas happened because of leadership. You look at it, and this country is doing pretty damned good. And, energy is one of the biggest factors," Pickens adds.

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