T. Boone Pickens, former oil baron turned wind and natural gas advocate, and “Mouth of the South” Ted Turner, media mogul and environmentalist, have a few obvious things in common: a heck-of-a-lot-of-money, a dose of Southern charm and worldly ambition. But recently, the two have also developed a shared love of natural gas as a cleaner burning fuel option for power plants and vehicles, and on Sunday the duo teamed up to stump for the fuel in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
Picken’s economic interests in natural gas — through both his hedge fund BP Capital, which upped its interests in natural gas producers last week, and his stake in natural gas vehicle distribution company Clean Energy Fuels (s CLNE) — have been well documented. But I hadn’t previously heard much about Ted Turner’s natural gas investments. He has expressed interest in funding cleantech companies, but the only investment I had heard about was when he bought, and subsequently sold, a solar installer to First Solar (s FSLR).
But then I remembered, ah-ha, Turner has long been one of the largest land holders in the U.S. And what have we recently discovered is plentiful — an estimated 2,000 trillion cubic feet according to Pickens and Turner — and under some large portions of “mid-continent” land in the U.S.? Natural gas.
According to the LandReport, Turner was the country’s largest landowner in 2008 with 2 million acres, and including international land holdings he has amassed land that’s bigger than the state of Delaware. The LandReport quotes from Turner’s published memoirs “Call Me Ted,” specifically about his ranch land that has valuable natural gas reserves:
Then between 1992 and 1996, I bought three large ranches in New Mexico. The biggest, Vermejo Park, is nearly 600,000 acres, and together these three ranches cover more than one million acres. . . . Vermejo sits on top of valuable natural gas that is being extracted by an energy company that has the rights. They do this work very carefully, extracting the gas while protecting the ranch’s beauty and wildlife.
I don’t claim to know how much of Turner’s land has natural gas resources and Picken’s and Turner’s interests in natural gas don’t necessarily mean that natural gas won’t make a decent transition fuel to a lower carbon economy (though, as a fossil fuel, it’s a limited resource and still emits carbon). But it’s worth keeping in mind that the two businessmen have more at stake in this than their stated concerns about creating a “cleaner and more secure future.” If anyone has more details about any of Ted Turner’s natural gas assets (we’ve just given this a quick look) let us know.