CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

America in 2013; Texas Fracking Future; ENI CEO's Energy Warning; Manufactured in America; Larry Summers on Health Care Solutions

Aired December 31, 2013 - 16:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: All hail shale! The new dawn of American energy. Swallowing Chapter 9, a bitter pill for Detroit. And how not to launch a national health program -- lessons from ObamaCare.

We have an hour together to show you the boom, bust and downright bullishness of America in 2013. I'm Richard Quest. I mean business.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

QUEST: Good evening. Tonight we're on the road through America, from the broken city of Detroit to the boom towns of Texas. We're going to hear about the rise in American manufacturing and we'll take and talk about an embarrassing episode, the launch of ObamaCare.

First, though, let's begin with the new black gold rush. The United States now imports 40 percent of its oil. It's the lowest level since 1991. Now in the first five months of this year, the country met 87 percent -- 87 percent -- of its energy needs.

Just look at the way U.S. crude production -- we're talking about thousands of barrels a day. And you start to see, since 1990, when it fell down and then right at the end here, whoosh, up it starts to go, the amount of oil being produced every single day.

And look at the number of rigs, the oil rigs in production in the United States, 1990 we see it bouncing around the 600. There we come right the way down until 2010 when once again it rises very, very sharply.

And what you're looking at in all of these numbers is the rise of shale gas and oil. And it is this which has made such a dramatic difference to the economy of the United States.

And there was only one place to go and really discover the benefits of shale -- well, of course, it has to be the home of oil, Texas, and Midland.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST (voice-over): It's hot. And the big sky of Texas seems to go on forever as these oil and natural gas rigs keep pumping out the black gold, now fueling much of America's recovery. It's a huge industry, devoted to cracking the shale rock thousands of feet beneath the ground and freeing the precious fossil fuels inside.

QUEST: There's nothing pretty about the art or science of fracking. It's loud, it's dirty and if you look at the array of equipment, it's extremely complicated.

QUEST (voice-over): Fracking has dramatically increased energy production. American industry now has access to cheaper energy which drives manufacturing costs lower. That, of course, pushes profits up.

QUEST: This is a revolution that we're seeing. Would you agree?

CLINT WALKER, GENERAL MANAGER, CUDD ENERGY SERVICES: Yes, it's a wonderful revolution. It's American capitalism at its best.

QUEST (voice-over): Catching up with those who do the fracking involves an EARLY START, before sunrise. An army marches on its stomach. So do the oil infantry at FTS International. A hearty breakfast is a must.

And no truck leaves this site until a top-to-bottom inspection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let's (INAUDIBLE) and let's get ready to roll.

QUEST (voice-over): Now the fracturing of the rock can begin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

QUEST (voice-over): It's carefully monitored from a mobile control room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is (INAUDIBLE).

QUEST (voice-over): The concentration is intense. They say fracking a well can cost as much as $5 million.

QUEST: So at the moment, 9.5 thousand feet beneath us, you are pumping water, sand and chemicals at a high pressure out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going out the perforations there, yes, sir.

QUEST (voice-over): In most cases, each well is only fracked in various stages once after it is drilled.

To get this bit right and this well will produce to its maximum efficiency, getting it wrong and, well, need I say more?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an economic.

QUEST: This is the sand that goes into the well.

QUEST (voice-over): Fracking is not new. The first oil wells were fractured in 1952. What's different is that they can now drill horizontally as well as vertically, and better technology means more oil can be released.

QUEST: How much is it driven, the economic recovery, (INAUDIBLE)? (INAUDIBLE) your gut feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I just know that in Texas, probably 65 percent of the manufacturing jobs right now are in this industry. And the numbers are 1.7 million jobs are related to this business right now. In terms of the impact on the economy, that's in the billions of dollars.

QUEST (voice-over): Fracking continues to face criticism from environmentalists and others. Some say dangerous chemicals can seep into the water table. A charge the industry denies.

Others say fracturing can cause minor earthquakes and tremors. And then there's the issue of water. Up to 2 million gallons can be used fracturing one well. It's a huge drain at a time of drought in Texas.

QUEST: And it's not (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can.

QUEST: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's liquid gold. In West Texas, this is gold. Water is gold.

QUEST (voice-over): Oil firms like Feskin are now taking fracking water and recycling it for future use.

QUEST: America's oil barons have seen boom and bust before. Now they believe the good times are here to stay. And there's a quiet satisfaction, too, because even though fracking remains highly controversial, they know that the new method is one of the reasons for America's economic recovery.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: Now meanwhile Europe is facing an energy emergency according to the chief executive of ENI. Paulo Scaroni says the continent could be left behind by the United States where as you've just heard, there's a booming economy thanks to shale gas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAOLO SCARONI, CEO, ENI: Well, I fear that there is a real emergency in energy in Europe. The Europeans while we speak pay gas three times as much as the U.S., and pay twice as much as the electricity. You understand with this differential, it's very hard to imagine industrial investments in Europe. This creates a major worry for the future of Europe.

QUEST: I have just been in Midland in Texas, and, yes, I've seen the size and the scale and I've heard about the effects of shale gas on the economy.

Do you believe Europe could enjoy similar benefits?

SCARONI: Well, Europe probably could. And as a matter of fact, countries such as Poland or the Ukraine are making big efforts to exploit this new resource.

But in Western Europe, politicians and also the public are very much against the development of shale gas in the continent. The only one notable exception are the U.K., the U.K. in which everybody seems pushing towards having the same kind of shale gas revolution that the U.S. has been in since the recent years.

QUEST: Politicians and the public are suspicious about shale gas and fracking and its long-term effects on the environment, and there is a debate to be had. Now, if that -- if there are legitimate worries, surely Europe is right to be slower than the U.S., even if it means a temporary economic disadvantage.

SCARONI: Well, yes and no, in the sense that you are right we should explore every possibility of doing fracking and exploiting shale gas in a safe manner.

But in this economic environment, with Europe, which is think energy, so much more than the U.S., we're really put in danger -- the European economy in particular the industrial investments, in a period in which already the economy is very much weak.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: That's the chief executive of ENI on the global implications of the rise in fracking in the United States.

Of course, fracking is highly controversial. But it is here to stay, says the governor of Texas. I'll be back in his home state in a moment to see how they're making the most of the energy boom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Bullish in Texas, how the oil state is leading the American recovery. Or will all end in tears?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Welcome back to QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, this special edition of the program, as we look at the U.S. economy in 2013.

Midland, Texas, has benefited from the oil boom like no other town or city in the U.S. In 2013, it actually topped the list of the fastest growing metropolitan areas, as I found out when I traveled to the town.

It's not just the oilmen reaping the benefits.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST (voice-over): If you want to find out how good things are in Midland, visit the county fair.

TAMMY DOOLEY, MIDLAND COUNTY FAIR: Texas is a great economic state, but Midland is even better. People are moving in here by the droves. They have great jobs. Midland is booming.

QUEST (voice-over): At $5 each, these rides are expensive. But here they can afford it. Personal incomes are the second highest in the United States. Unemployment at 3.5 percent is less than half the national average.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't have a job here, it's because you don't want to work.

QUEST: How are things in Midland at the moment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're great. They're booming. The oil business is great. I work for an oil company. It's great.

QUEST (voice-over): Oil and gas, Midland lives, breathes and sleeps the stuff. This region is being driven by the renaissance in the industry. It's created an economy on steroids and strains are starting to show.

QUEST: Housing is a real problem in this part of Texas. The demand for accommodation for oil workers is so great there's not enough to go around. So the oil companies build their own temporary hotels. They're nicknamed "man camps."

Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

QUEST (voice-over): They house workers in these camps, often for weeks at a time.

QUEST: Anything you could possibly need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes; this is home away from home.

QUEST (voice-over): All these workers need to be housed, fed and paid.

Oil and gas wealth is rippling out across the region.

STEVEN PRUETT, CEO, ELEVATION: One rig creates about 150-200 jobs. But indirectly it creates jobs at restaurants, growth in our schools, more teachers, more roads to be constructed to support all of this.

QUEST: Well, it's quite a big space.

QUEST (voice-over): For homebuilder Mark Payne (ph), Midland is the ultimate, one-industry company town.

MARK PAYNE (PH), HOMEBUILDER: I'm in the oil business even though I'm a homebuilder.

QUEST: Is everyone in Midland in the oil business?

PAYNE (PH): Pretty much, yes, sir.

QUEST (voice-over): No matter how many homes he builds, it'll never be enough.

PAYNE (PH): We'll do probably 70 houses this year, and we could probably sell 300 houses.

QUEST (voice-over): Ironically, there is one house that's empty, but you can't buy or rent 1412 West Ohio Avenue. It was owned by the first President Bush and it's where the second President Bush grew up. And it's now a museum.

If housing is scarce in Midland, then so are workers. Ask Duke Edwards, the owner of The Basin Burger, who has a battle to keep his staff.

DUKE EDWARDS, OWNER, BASIN BURGER: Our biggest problem has been labor. We're paying $10, $11, $12 an hour for basic stuff. In the oil field, they make $30 or $40.

QUEST: How easy is it to find a job in Midland, Texas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ridiculously easy.

QUEST (voice-over): They all know they could walk out today and have another job tomorrow.

QUEST: Barely has the boom begun and they're already thinking big in Midland. The plan is to pull down the old courthouse and put in its place a 53-story tower, one of the tallest in Texas; appropriately it'll be called the Energy Tower.

QUEST (voice-over): This is classic Texas hubris: talk big, build big on the back of oil, which is surprising since Midland has a long history of boom and bust.

And even more surprising, they expect it to happen again.

QUEST: You don't believe it's here to last?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir; it's not here to last. I've done been through two of them. (Inaudible) the bust, so it'll stay for a few -- it just comes and goes. It's part of it.

QUEST: Boom and bust?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boom and bust.

QUEST (voice-over): It's extraordinary, as long as the price of oil stays high, the wells will keep churning. So this is one oil town that will keep celebrating right to the end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: We talked a lot about the oil economy and while Texas is certainly dominated by oil, it's attracted new technology companies, too.

In 2013, Motorola opened this factory near Dallas, where workers will custom assemble 100,000 Moto X phones each week.

Eric Schmidt is the executive chairman of Google, which now owns that part of Motorola, and said it was time to put trust in U.S. workers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIC SCHMIDT, GOOGLE: Anything that involves customization, anything that involves software and hardware together, anything where the customer is involved in making the design, anything that's complicated, can be made really, really well in America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: So what role does government play in all of this, especially at a time of boom?

Rick Perry is the governor of Texas. And I asked him what he thought about the driving forces and the resurgence in American manufacturing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Well, I'll suggest to you one of those is transportation costs. The shale gas phenomenon that has occurred across the United States, certainly Texas and North Dakota and Pennsylvania; it could be happening in New York if they would allow for the exploration of that shale gas.

And the cheapening, if you will, of the energy costs, whether it's the energy to use in a major facility to develop your product, or whether it's the transportation costs.

All of those, I think, are one of the big reasons that you're seeing the manufacturing return back onshore. That and obviously just the cost of doing business in some of these other countries have gone up and so we're going to be competitive in the future.

QUEST: As our report has just shown, the amount of shale gas being withdrawn from the basin now in Texas is quite extraordinary, phenomenal in many ways.

PERRY: Well, George Mitchell was a pioneer and a very visionary man. And folks made fun of him for decades about his concept of being able to use hydraulic fracturing to open up these tight shales.

And the fact is, he was right. And it's that innovation, it's that, you know, free spirit type of innovation that what we're trying to drive in states like Texas to free entrepreneurs to come up with new innovations, things that people say you can't do, well, we've been able to show in the state of Texas is not only does it work, it works well and it's put America back at the epicenter of manufacturing.

QUEST: Your duty as governor on the other side of that equation is to ensure regulatory controls such that the water table is not infiltrated, the earthquakes, if they do, do not happen, and that the correct safety procedures are followed.

How are you balancing that, Governor, with the natural desire for a boom industry?

PERRY: Well, one of the things that we've done in Texas, matter of fact, the first state to make public and to demand and require those companies that do the hydraulic fracturing, that the chemicals that they use in the process of hydraulic fracturing were, in fact, made public so that the public knows and has good confidence that the products they're using.

We have found the way to balance the regulatory world with being able to allow the exploration and certainly have done it in a safe way. And I think by and large, we prove every day with the amount of gas that's being extracted, that we're able to create an incredible economy, but also doing it in a safe and thoughtful way.

QUEST: Now I have one last question and one of the things I discovered when I was in Texas -- and I've been to Midland before, several times. They love the boom and they know that the bust eventually comes.

Do you believe there's a sustainability to this fracking boom that won't eventually go bust?

PERRY: Well, I don't know how far out in the future you want to go before you say there's a decline. You know, there -- our common sense tells us that it will probably come back. There some new innovation out there. There's some new way to do a business.

But the fact is, I think that for the foreseeable future -- and I'm talking about the next decade or even 20 years, that natural gas will be the energy choice that a lot of people choose. It's a way that a lot of the world will be powered.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: Now not everyone is quite so enthusiastic about the energy revolution. We'll hear from BP's chief exec later in the program.

But coming up next, today there are messages and outages. You might say it's the botched rollout of ObamaCare. And the former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers tells us it's been a terrible blow for the president.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

QUEST: In the United States, healthcare.gov opened for business on October the 1st and things did not go according to plan. The site is the centerpiece of the U.S. president's Affordable Care Act. It's otherwise known and popularly called ObamaCare.

On day one, the website crashed, unable to cope with people trying to sign up. And those glitches, they continued for months. The Obama administration came under fire and the president himself admitted the rollout had been rough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law. There are a whole bunch of things about it that are working really well which people didn't notice because they weren't controversial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: This has been a major fiasco for the administration and fixing the website has huge political stakes for the president.

Becky Anderson spoke to the former Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, who's a supporter of the ObamaCare program.

Becky asked him why he believed it to be so important to the U.S. economy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think ObamaCare is important morally, and I think it's important practically. It's important morally because the United States shouldn't be the only industrial country in the world that doesn't have universal health care.

It's important practically because there are a lot of people who are going to live rather than die because of the access to ObamaCare that -- to health care that didn't exist before. It's important practically because there are a lot of families that were going to be bankrupted meeting medical bills that now aren't going to be bankrupted.

And it's important because ObamaCare is a framework in which cost reduction is going to be possible. In fact, over the last three years, we've seen the lowest growth in U.S. health care costs in the last 50, and that's not something that people expected, and it's not all due, certainly, to ObamaCare.

It's not even entirely clear why it happened, but it certainly suggests that those who thought ObamaCare was going to blow through budgets and destroy the country's competitiveness weren't just wrong, but were directionally wrong.

Because across America, employers are able to compete better because their health insurance costs did not go up as fast as they thought. Workers are able to be paid more because less of what would have been their wages are siphoned into health care costs. These are real achievements.

ANDERSON: You've knocked me back on the damaging question here. How damaging has this failed rollout been, both politically and economically?

SUMMERS: It hasn't been damaging economically yet. Politically, in the near term, it's been a terrible blow to the president's popularity and to confidence in what government can do. But the wheel turns, and just as it seemed that the Republicans were completely down for the count after the budget fiascos of just two months ago, the wheel has a way of turning.

And so if -- and I'm not in the position to make a prediction -- if the website comes back, if people are able to enroll, if premiums don't grow too rapidly, I think there's at least a real prospect that five years from now, this will be remembered as a rocky patch, as an object lesson in how government should not manage a computer system.

But in terms of the fundamental contribution to the progressive vision, it may not -- all this excitement that we have right now may not amount to much.

Now if they're not able to get the program going, if the computer systems are not able to be made to work, if younger, healthier people don't sign up for the insurance pools, that would obviously be a much more serious situation.

So I think we have to say we don't know yet. But I have a feeling that some of the more extreme pessimists may look a little silly a year from today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: That's the former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, who had a difficult year himself in 2013, having been passed over to be the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

In a moment, the former boom town that went bust -- Detroit faces the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. And the Motor City may be down and out; ironically, car sales are up.

Who is doing the buying? After the break.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND REPORTER HOST OF "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" SHOW: Welcome back to this special edition of "Quest Means Business" - "America in 2013." Detroit is the birthplace of the American car industry, and the city filed for bankruptcy in 2013, the largest in U.S. history to go bust with debts of $18 billion. It's an endgame that followed oh 60 years or so - as spiral of economic decline.

Now, Detroit's population has shrunk by more than half since the heydays of 1950s. Back then it was home to nearly two million people. It enjoyed the highest per capita income in the United States. But once the automakers moved out, so did everyone else, and the city collapsed under the weight of 100,000 creditors. There were huge liabilities. There's been a break down in public services. For instance, it takes 58 minutes for the police to respond to callouts, compared to a national average in America of 11 minutes. And it's estimated there are 78,000 buildings abandoned waiting for demolition. Official figures put the poverty rate at more than 36 percent. That's roughly three times the national rate. And the median household incomes - well that's half the average in the United States.

Detroit's spectacular decline is clearly evident on the city streets. Poppy Harlow toured Detroit's dilapidated downtown and spoke to those affected.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

JANET WHITSON, RETIRED DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY EMPLOYEE: I did everything I could, I did my part of the bargain, and now this is their part of the bargain.

POPPY HARLOW, JOURNALIST FOR CNN: Promises made to city workers. Now those promises can't be kept because Detroit is more than $18 billion in debt.

KEN PELTIER, FORMER DETROIT POLICE OFFICER: We paid a percentage of our wages every year into that so it's not something that's being given to us - it's our money.

HARLOW: Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr filed for bankruptcy and he's proposed cutting the City's debt by 83 percent. That will hit city workers and retirees. Is it likely that they're going to have to see some sort of concessions made.

KEVYN ORR, DETROIT EMERGENCY MANAGER: They're going - they're going to have to be some concessions -

HARLOW: Right.

ORR: -- that's just a reality.

HARLOW: Government officials say it's gotten this bad - 78,000 abandoned buildings, 20 percent of the streetlights don't work and average police response time is 58 minutes.

TINESHA FLOWERS, DETROIT RESIDENT: You call the police now, you wonder if they're coming.

HARLOW: Michael Wells and Janet Whitson worked for the Detroit Public Library for more than 30 years. What do you think this bankruptcy means for you?

MICHAEL WELLS, RETIRED DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY EMPLOYEE: Well, I think it's going to possibly mean a reduction in my monthly pension check.

WHITSON: I believe at this point it would mean I would lose my home.

HARLOW: They're willing to take cuts if the City improves.

WELLS: If I've given up something, OK, and I now have a police department that responds on a 911 call, OK? If I have EMS when I'm having an emergency, if the lights are turned on in the city - but if it's simply to pay off the bond holders, all right, and the insurers and all these other issues are still there, then not only has my city not improved but I've gone down further as well.

RICK SNYDER, GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: What would happen if we didn't declare bankruptcy? Detroit would continue to go downhill. And downhill to what point? So while people say this will probably be the lowest day in Detroit's history, isn't that a good thing instead of having a lower day tomorrow?

HARLOW: The enormity of Detroit's bankruptcy hit Washington Friday.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Can we help Detroit? We are now going through exactly in detail. The question is we don't know at this point.

Male: That's the anxiety - what a lot of us are concerned about is the unknown.

HARLOW: And now Detroit not only faces the stigma of bankruptcy but also millions and millions in legal fees in order to exit bankruptcy. There is one thing that everyone hopes, and that is that there is a brighter future ahead for the Motor City. Poppy Harlow, CNN, Detroit.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: It is perhaps ironic that while the Motor City went bust, the U.S. automobile industry is just starting to rev up. One way of testing the strength of an economy is of course whether people are buying big-ticket items like motor cars. I went to a Chevy dealership in Texas to find out who is buying and how much they're willing to spend.

This is a Texas car dealership, and here they build them big - very big. Look at them all. They go on forever.

Male: They do.

QUEST: They can't sell them fast enough. The lot at Classic Chevrolet runs to a quarter of a mile. Every different type - from SUVs to hybrids to electrics to the family sedan. And this year they're flying off the lot. In fact, they hope to sell more than 5,000 cars this year.

DALE BRYANT: Good morning. My name is Dale Bryant, and you?

QUEST: I'm Richard.

BRYANT: Richard, welcome to Classic Chevrolet. What can we sell you today?

QUEST: We're in Texas. They aren't shy about the way they go about it.

BRYANT: They say this car'll make you feel 20 years younger and do things you hadn't done in 20 years.

QUEST: A Texas promise indeed that's helped make this dealership one of the most successful in America. Classic Chevrolet chalks it up to customer satisfaction. And there's more to it than just that. Car sales are rising nationwide to the highest levels since before the economic crisis. And the buyers are coming in all shapes and sizes. There's 19-year-old Ravynne Wozniak.

RAVYNNE WOZNIAK, FIRST-TIME: How do I fire it up with the manual, Dad?

QUEST: Left foot on the clutch. Who must work three jobs to buy her new car. How do you feel about it?

WOZNIAK: It's nerve-wracking but it's exciting.

QUEST: Why is it nerve-wracking - tell me.

WOZNIAK: Because I have to pay the payments.

QUEST: Or Otto Bielss. He's paying $45,000 for a new Chevy Tahoe.

OTTO BIELSS, CHEVROLET CUSTOMER: We feel much better, stable jobs, good careers and you know the economy's, you know, going up now, so we're able to make a purchase like this.

QUEST: Behind these sales is a renewed confidence in America. And that's exactly what Chevrolet has always talked about.

(SONG CLIP)

Female: Viva USA in your Chevrolet.

(END SONG CLIP)

QUEST: These vintage commercials of the 1950s celebrate the American open road. Today, it's less of a romance and more about replacements and finance.

BRYANT: Technology has changed - drastically. Most people that are trading in cars now - the age of a vehicle coming in now is about eight to ten years old. Well most vehicles don't near about have the safety features these new cars have.

QUEST: Will it protect my wallet from you?

BRYANT: Yes, sure it will. We make them easy to own because we've got good financing rates out there.

ERIC BRYANT, GENERAL SALES MANAGER, CLASSIC CHEVROLET: Our banks have gone back to getting much more aggressive, interest rates are very competitive, they're ready to win money and people are certainly eager to - certainly eager to spend it.

QUEST: The financing may be there and the open road may be more crowded, but some things will never change. The eternal tug of war between customer and car salesmen - the haggling.

TOUFIK ATTAHERI, SALESMAN, CLASSIC CHEVROLET: This one is around $35,000. Yes sir. This is a brand new car - new body style --

QUEST: You can (inaudible) for me.

ATTAHERI: -- you know what? I might - probably a couple thousand.

QUEST: Twenty-nine. Deal?

ATTAHERI: Do you know what? There is a chance. Absolutely.

QUEST: I had a wallet here somewhere. Who's got my wallet? New cars are more than just a barometer of the U.S. economy. Here it tells us about how people are feeling.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: And you can imagine what happened to my wallet. Well, car sales tell us about how people are feeling in the U.S. economy, and it's not just the hard numbers - the very language of the road has proved a popular tool this year in measuring the course of the economy. Let's take monetary policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Making monetary policy is sometimes compared to driving a car, with policymakers pressing on the accelerator or the brakes, depending on whether the economy needs to be sped up or slowed down at that moment.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: Now, central bankers help control the speed and even put the extra fuel in the tank - a bit of easy money. Unfortunately, none of that much helped when the engine itself is faulty.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

ANGEL GURRIA, OECD SECRETARY GENERAL: What is the diagnosis today of the economic engine? Well, that the proverbial four-cylinders are not working - are not firing.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: So, say you can jumpstart it - get the engine going with a bit of restructuring and stimulus. When you set off at full speed down the highway to recovery. And then you've got the government at the wheel.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're seeing some job growth and businesses are investing and manufacturing's doing well and we continue to have these self-inflicted crises here in Washington that suddenly leads everybody to tap the brakes.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: Oh, so many automobile analogies. We've seen it before, more often than many of us care to remember. The decision-makers, the drivers in this equation getting in the way. Unfortunately, knowing what's behind you through checking the rearview mirror - well that usually isn't enough. In this unpredictable economy, you also need to see what's lurking around the corner - just around the corner. Well, the U.S. oil boom has fueled the Texas economy, and there's one man who knows a good opportunity when he sees it.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

T. BOONE PICKENS, FOUNDER, BP CAPITAL: I never envisioned that you could recover the gas and oil that we've been able to recover.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: In Texas, there's oil, there's gas and then there's T. Boone Pickens, the legendary entrepreneur in the energy industry. He built his career out of taking big risks, and today, he's one of the leading advocates of American energy independence. I met T. Boone Pickens in Texas during my road trip.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: Now, this one, see you got a son next to it. The portrait is appropriate and this larger-than-life figure in the oil and gas industry. T. Boone Pickens at the age of 85 can still size up the markets with a mere glance.

PICKENS: It doesn't take me long to see whether I'm up or down. Pretty good day for us.

QUEST: He has seen many profitable days in a career that's lasted more than half a century. But even he never predicted the energy boom made possible by hydraulic fracturing - better known as fracking.

QUEST: I'm surprised. I never envisioned that you could recover the gas and oil that we've been able to recover out of rock.

QUEST: It's been the ability to horizontally drill that has really revolutionized the industry and created this great bonanza, isn't it?

PICKENS: Well, fracking, no question, is advanced dramatically from where it was. The horizontal drilling has been the real opener for what's happened in the last five, six years.

QUEST: How much of the U.S. economic advance do you think can be now credited to the oil and gas industry?

PICKENS: We have the cheapest oil by 10 to 20 percent, we have the cheapest natural gas by 75 percent and we have the cheapest gasoline by 50 percent. What does it do for you? You could imagine what it does for your economy. We're building plants back in the United States now. They're coming back in here building plants and plastic. We've got a huge fertilizer business - all from natural gas. Cheap natural gas is causing that to happen.

QUEST: The wall of fame some might say.

PICKENS: Well, it's you know - there's some good ones up there.

QUEST: Now in the 1980s T. Boone Pickens made headlines as a corporate raider. Today they're called shareholder activists. These are your companies, or some of them.

PICKENS: Yes.

QUEST: He now runs the Dallas-based hedge fund BP Capital. He's the author of "The Pickens Plan." Its goal is energy independence for North America.

PICKENS: You have a North American energy alliance. You bring together Canada, Mexico, United States, we're their market for their oil - that's the case today. Our biggest supply of oil outside of the United States is Canada. Put them together, we're their market and it's - we're energy independent with North America. We don't need anything from any place else. I mean, we control our destiny. It's not left up to somebody in the Mid East who actually - I consider them to be the enemy in most cases, they hate us and there's no reason to be tied to them in any way.

QUEST: The answer is in your own backyard, in your own production - is that what you're saying?

PICKENS: Exactly. What I want this president to stand up and say, `We have the best oil and gas industry in the world. We are years ahead of the rest of the world on horizontal drilling, fracking, our techniques and all.' We should take credit for what we've accomplished, and we've accomplished a great deal and we're pulling the country back on its feet from a bad economy.

QUEST: Ah, these are the cartoons. Even though Pickens has been lampooned in the press over the years -

PICKENS: This is signed by Ronald Reagan.

QUEST: -- he has always been taken seriously by those in the seats of power. This is what we always think of, isn't it?

PICKENS: Yes.

QUEST: After all, for a man who has made such a fortune out of oil and gas, he knows the value of what comes out of the ground.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: The strong views of T. Boone Pickens. The United States, incidentally, will become the world's number one oil producer by 2015. That's the prediction made by the IEA - the International Energy Agency. For now though the balance of power is still tilted towards the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia is in the number one spot.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN'S EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR AND ANCHOR OF GLOBAL EXCHANGE: It's the oldest event of its kind in the region that has the most proven reserves. Adipec though has a particularly large turnout this year because it's the first time the UAE has opened up the oil and gas sector to concessions in 70 years. All the talk on the ground is the influence of the oil and gas shale revolution in the United States. The CEO of BP, Bob Dudley, suggests that some of the projections leading up to 2018 are too ambitious.

BOB DUDLEY, GROUP CHIEF EXECUTIVE, BP: People are using that figure of six million barrels a day out of North America from shale. It's gone well for the last five years, and I think the question is shale is shale is shale. There's some really good shale, there's some shale that's still questionable. But to be able to get to that, shale oil wells decline very fast. The amount of activity to do that will be enormous. So I think to me it's a question mark whether that activity can ramp up to that scale in North America. People are looking at the trends and drawing the maps straight up and I think actually the activity level might mean we need to be a little bit more tempered on this growth rate.

DEFTERIOS: We're sitting in the Middle East here, and when you look at the region right now, do you find it still tension-filled and we're not past the worst of the security situations?

DUDLEY: Well, you have to be very long-term in energy. You make big bets and make investments that sometimes don't even produce anything for ten years. We've been working in Egypt for 50 years, we've gone through ups and downs, and we're deeply committed to working - continuing to work and build projects in Egypt. We work in Iraq. The Syrian tensions though have moved across the region as well as the events in North Africa that we've had in Algeria's (inaudible) and of course Libya. So, I would say the tension is palpable across the region in a way that I haven't seen it in many years.

DEFTERIOS: Iraq, you have concerns about. They had wanted to get to eight million barrels a day by the end of the decade. They've come down and said more realistically probably around six, right? Your concerns are what?

DUDLEY: What I would say is that the country is doing everything it can to move its oil production. A lot of it is they've got to de-bottleneck the export infrastructure. I mean literally it's bottled up there. I think Iraq still has a lot of potential, the terms have to be more economic if they're going to attract a lot more foreign investment, and we'll see.

DEFTERIOS: BP has its roots in Iran as a founding company there. Do you think this time next year you'll get a green light or the other ICOs'll get the green light to go in and start producing in Iran again?

DUDLEY: Iran has a lot of resources. The production has been curtailed. I think they've not been exposed to many of the new technologies in the oil and gas industry, and so I think there's a lot of potential there.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: After the break it's a case of rollercoasters looping the loop and the inevitable sugar rush. I'm not talking about the economy in 2013 - we're off to the fair. The county fair in Texas - it's the real thing on "Quest Means Business."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: On my trip through the great state of Texas, the evidence of renewed prosperity was everywhere. We have the revving up of the car market, the revving up of the oil and gas industry and there was plenty of prosperity at the county fair. Some might say without irony they've never had it so good.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: There up riding (inaudible) rides. And supersized food - I have no idea how to eat this. But I suspect it's going to be very (inaudible). And a bevy of bucking bulls. They work long and hard in the oil and gas fields. So tonight, Midland, Texas is ready to relax at the county fair. A day at the fair - it doesn't get more Texas than this. You know the saying in Texas `What happens in Texas?'

Female: Everything is bigger. Everything is bigger.

QUEST: And that includes what goes on your head. So which hat looks right for me?

Female: So, let's just.

QUEST: Oooph. (Inaudible)

Female: There's a cowboy for you. Square to your face. There you go.

QUEST: And what sort of noise do I need to make?

Female: Yee-ha! (LAUGHTER)

QUEST: Say that again. Come on, one more.

Female: Yee-ha!

QUEST: There's quite a bit of wild west left in west Texas. Who are you?

CLIFF VOAKE, "JOHN WAYNE": Well I'm the Duke of course.

QUEST: You're John Wayne?

VOAKE: Bigger than life, kid, bigger than life.

QUEST: Tell me what you're doing here.

VOAKE: Well, I'm just trying to spread a tradition. Rodeos and fairs were part of the American tradition just as much as me.

QUEST: It doesn't get more Texas than a man in a big hat who's about to do a bit of bull riding?

Male: Yes, sir, bull riding's great here this year.

QUEST: So, these are your bulls. Which is the best - which is the best bull there?

Male: The best bull in my opinion will be this black bull right here - 641 revolutions.

QUEST: What's it mean?

Male: He's probably one of the easier ones in there to get along with.

QUEST: Frankly, few bulls at the Midland fair tonight seem easy to get along with. Why they do bull riding is not clear. The purpose is to hang on tight for eight long seconds. Only one, (Guthrie Long) stayed for that long duration. What's the moral of doing all of this?

Male: Just have fun, I mean, don't let anything bring you down because it's going to cause problems in the long run. Just have fun and live life and smile.

QUEST: In other words, seize the moment, and as you might say, take the bull by the horn.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

QUEST: And so to tonight's "Profitable Moment." You can learn a lot about the state of the U.S. economy from a trip to the county fair. For much of 2013 investors the world over have been on a wild, (scurly) right as the Fed eventually threatened and did cut economic stimulus, albeit by a smidgeon. In September, the Fed put off the inevitable. In December it finally began to rip off the sticking blasters even though the economy was still seemingly swinging from one side to the other.

It's not the end of bond buying and the fun times of the fair may continue for some while to come. But a smart investor will continue to climb the wall of worry as uncertainties, so much uncertainty remains. And like the children who bobbed up and down at the county fair, volatility could rule the day until we get more clarity from government and central banks alike. This will be the way it's likely to go (inaudible).

Ultimately, the giant Ferris wheel - think of it as the global economy - majestic, just keeps turning. Keen investors should continue to profit from these dizzying times. And that's "Quest Means Business" for this edition. I'm Richard Quest at the CNN Center. Whatever you're up to this festive season (RINGS BELL), hope it's profitable.

END