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Fueling America

Oil billionaire Pickens puts his money on wind power

  • Story Highlights
  • T. Boone Pickens launches plan to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil
  • Oilman calls for more use of wind power, switch to natural gas to power vehicles
  • Pickens' company has announced plan to build world's largest wind farm in Texas
  • Wind turbines could supply 20 percent or more of U.S. power needs, Pickens says
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(CNN) -- Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens is putting his clout behind renewable energy sources like wind power.

Pickens says renewable resources like wind power could reduce U.S. foreign oil dependency by more than a third.

T. Boone Pickens talks about the advantages of wind power on CNN in May.

The legendary entrepreneur and philanthropist on Tuesday unveiled a new energy plan he says will decrease the United States' dependency on foreign oil by more than one-third and help shift American energy production toward renewable natural resources.

"The Pickens Plan" calls for investing in domestic renewable resources such as wind, and switching from oil to natural gas as a transportation fuel.

In a news conference outlining his proposal, Pickens said his impetus for the plan is the country's dangerous reliance on foreign oil.

"Our dependence on imported oil is killing our economy. It is the single biggest problem facing America today," he said. Video Watch Pickens discuss plan for wind power »

"Wind power is ... clean, it's renewable. It's everything you want. And it's a stable supply of energy," Pickens told CNN in May. "It's unbelievable that we have not done more with wind."

Pickens' company, Mesa Power, recently announced a $2 billion investment as the first step in a multibillion-dollar plan to build the world's largest wind farm in Pampa, Texas.

Pickens said Tuesday that if the United States takes advantage of the so-called "wind corridor," stretching from the Canadian border to West Texas, energy from wind turbines built there could supply 20 percent or more of the nation's power. He suggested the project could be funded by private investors.

Power from thousands of wind turbines that would line the corridor could be distributed throughout the country via electric power transmission lines and could fuel power plants in large population hubs, the oil baron said.

Fueling these plants with wind power would then free up the natural gas historically used to power them, and would mean that natural gas could replace foreign oil as fuel for motor vehicles, he said.

Using natural gas for transportation needs could replace one-third of the United States' imported oil and would save more than $230 billion a year, Pickens said.

"We are going to have to do something different in America," Pickens told CNN. "You can't keep paying out $600 billion a year for oil."

His energy plan could be implemented within 10 years if both Congress and the White House treat the current energy situation as a "national emergency and take immediate action," he predicted.

Pickens, a lifelong Republican, says he is not advising either presidential candidate, but is prepared to work with the next president.

The Web site for the plan urges people to sign up and help spread the word.

Oil analyst Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover, an energy risk manager, said Pickens' plan could definitely reduce the country's dependency on foreign oil.

"The best thing about it is that it's a definite plan -- it's not something that either party has pitted itself outrightly against. It therefore has a tremendous chance for success on Capitol Hill."

Analyst Fadel Gheit of Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., an investment firm, added that such a plan "has been on the drawing board for years."

At least 21 states and the District of Columbia have set deadlines or goals for utilities to obtain electricity from clean, renewable sources instead of fossil fuel-burning plants. See where states stand on renewable resources »

The scramble has triggered construction of large-scale wind farms throughout much of the nation, including proposals for the first U.S. offshore facilities.

Delaware and Galveston, Texas, have offshore projects in the works, although a farm proposed off New York's Long Island was shelved this year because of high projected construction costs.


In Massachusetts, where utilities are under the gun to obtain four percent of electricity from renewables by 2009, builders await federal approval of a hugely controversial wind farm off historic Cape Cod.

The Cape Wind project envisions 130 wind turbines each rising 440 feet above Nantucket Sound by 2011. State officials said the farm will eliminate pollution equal to 175,000 gas-burning cars.

CNN's Emily Anderson and Thom Patterson contributed to this report.

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