Buffett Watch

Warren Buffett Answers Your Emails on Squawk Box: Transcript (Part 11 and Final)


STEVE (on tape): I'm Steve, and I'm wondering why Warren Buffett isn't running for president.

QUICK: Well, Warren, go ahead.

BUFFETT: Bill Buckley, who just died a few days ago, ran for New York mayor many, many years ago. And they said, `If elected, what's the first thing you'll do?' He says, `I'll demand a recount.' And that's sort of the way I would feel about running for president. It requires a whole different set of talents than I've got. I wouldn't like the job, so, you know, and I love what I do. I mean, I would do this if I had to pay to do it. But don't tell the shareholders that. But the job of being president, the compromises you'd have to make, it just wouldn't appeal to me at all.

QUICK: OK. Joe, I know you have another question from back in the studio.

KERNEN: I have to. And it just has to do--Warren, over the years you see commodity cycles and supercycles. I'm just wondering, this time around--and not worried about the dollar. The dollar notwithstanding, because that's the excuse everyone uses. But have we now passed the point of no return in terms of what we have on this planet and what we're using as--is the Malthusian nightmare finally here, or will we go back to where wheat doesn't cost, you know, $50 a bushel?

BUFFETT: Well, ag commodities are a little tough. You know, if I had to on--where ag commodities would be three years from now, up or down, I wouldn't know which way to bet. But they look like they've had quite a run. But if you take something like oil, I mean, we have been sticking straws in the ground now since, what, Titusville in 1850-something with Colonel Drake. And we have--we have--we have found a lot of the oil that's to be found. And if we're going to produce--or use 85 million barrels a day now and the rest of the world probably is going to increase its demand in the--in the--in the next five or 10 years, we're going to have--we're going to have a tough time maintaining production that satisfies those at this price, even. So I think something like oil, six and a half million humans--or six and a half billion humans are going to use a lot more oil than a lot fewer used 20 years ago or 30 years ago.

KERNEN: So that goes for metals, too? You're saying things that we can grow, we can grow more of. But things that are in the ground are...

BUFFETT: Well, we--yeah, we're using--my son is turning out considerably more bushels of corn or soybeans per acre than 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. So land can get more productive. But oil is finite. There's actually some school that says it isn't, but I think it's pretty finite. And, you know, we have 500,000 producing oil wells in the United States. The average production is 11 barrels a day. Five hundred thousand times we've actually hit. But if you look at our production vs. 30 years ago, it's way down. And most, you know, most fields are depleting at a pretty good rate. And with demand--if demand grows a million or a million and a half barrels a day from year to year and the present fields deplete and we don't find the elephants in the future...

KERNEN: Right.

BUFFETT: ...you know, who knows what the equilibrium price will be.

QUICK: Carl:

QUINTANILLA: Well, with that in mind, some of the biggest bets, Warren, that get talked about on this show are from the likes of Boone Pickens, who says that he likes wind. Or it's the tar sands or it's a play on water here at GE. When it comes to energy, is there a next generation play, an alternative play that at least has caught your eye?

BUFFETT: Well, we're using more and more wind. We have a big energy company and--for example, in Iowa, we have a lot of wind farms and we're going to have more. So sure, the world is going to attempt to do that, but that is--that is not a big answer to the kind of energy demand that--that's coming along. So I think we've got to do everything we can in alternative areas, but I don't--I do not see that as a cure-all at all.

QUICK: OK. Warren, I'll try and get through several quick e-mails from viewers. And guys, jump--follow with me in the control room. This is from Ivan in Voorhees, New Jersey. He says, `We know there's a succession plan for Berkshire, but will there be a succession plan for writing your annual letters?'

BUFFETT: Well, my guess is my successor will have studied how much pain I go through in writing it and decide he's not going to quite do the same amount of work. But I hope that his goals are the same, which are to tell his fellow owners as much as possible and as accurately as possible, really, the things he worries about, the upside, the downside and accurately report, you know, where he's flopped in the past and all that. I think we've set a tone for that, I'm sure he'll do it somewhat differently.

QUICK: OK. Phil Nielsen from Durham, Connecticut, writes in, `Have you ever bought and sold a stock on the same day?'

CNBC has scheduled a one-hour special program on Buffett's unprecedented Squawk Box appearences. 

It's called Warren Buffett - The Billionaire Next Door: Face to Face.  It will be hosted by Becky Quick and airs tonight, Monday, March 3 at 9pm ET.

BUFFETT: Maybe sometime. In 50--I bought my first stock when I was 11, so that's 66 years ago. I got a late start, but, you know, I've been making up for it since. I probably--maybe I've done it once or twice. I don't remember.

QUICK: You don't remember ever doing it? Celeste from Bridgeport, Connecticut, writes in and says, `Aside from you, who's one of the smartest minds in finance today and someone you would listen to?'                                     

EMAIL TEXT:  Aside from you, who's one of the smartest minds in finance today, and someone you would listen to? Celeste Pagano, Bridgeport, CT

BUFFETT: Well, there's some very smart people out there. Bill Gross is a very smart person. Charlie Munger is about as smart as they get. I listen to him even when I don't want to, sometimes. The--obviously these four candidates that I've--I think are very smart.

QUICK: For the CIO job at Berkshire.

BUFFETT: For the CIO job. I don't know the 30 and 40 and 50-year-olds like I did when I was that age myself, so I--I've got--I do not have the same fix on the universe of investment managers I might've had in the past. I will guarantee you there's some plenty smart ones out there. We have a number of them that show up at our annual meeting, actually.

QUICK: Mm-hmm. And Warren, just thoughts for anyone who's watching the market today, the futures have been under pressure. What would you tell somebody? Do we need to worry about this?

BUFFETT: I would tell people if they worry what the market does on any given day, they shouldn't be buying stocks.

QUICK: OK. Warren, I want to thank you very, very much for joining us for these three hours on SQUAWK BOX. We've been getting e-mails, guys, coming in, including from Jack Welch, writing in saying this is the greatest SQUAWK BOX ever.

KERNEN: Yeah, great.

QUICK: So Warren, thank you so much for joining us today. We all appreciate you being here.

QUINTANILLA: Although I think--I think next time he's on, he's going to want to read headlines, he's going to want to do stocks to watch, right?

KERNEN: I just thought--Warren, your stock was City Service, that right?

BUFFETT: That's right. City Service--City Service Preferred.

KERNEN: Oil company. Yeah.

BUFFETT: It was a $6 preferred with a lot of--a lot of arrearages,$100 worth of arrearages.

KERNEN: I remember hearing that story before. This is--this is awesome. Great. Thank you, Becky. Thank you, Warren Buffett...

QUICK: Thanks, guys.

KERNEN: ...for so much of your time. It was great.

QUINTANILLA: Amazing, amazing.

KERNEN: Awesome.

BUFFETT: Thank you.

Transcript prepared by BurrellesLuce

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