T. Boone Pickens Drops Wind Farm but Says Plan Made 'Great Progress'

T. Boone Pickens: Natural gas is "the only option at this point" to replace oil.

July 8, 2009, 9:44 AM

July 8, 2009— -- Despite saying that he would be abandoning plans to build the world's largest wind farm in Pampa, Texas, billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens said that his plan to raise energy awareness in America has "made great progress."

"We elevated [the cause] as we wanted to do, into the presidential debate," Pickens told "Good Morning America" co-anchor Chris Cuomo.

He said that President Obama's campaign pledge to reduce dependancy on foreign oil helped his cause.

"He said, 'in 10 years, we will not be importing oil from the Mideast,'" Pickens said, recalling Obama's words.

It was exactly one year ago today that Pickens had a lot of people scratching their heads.

The Texas billionaire oilman had become an unlikely renewable energy advocate, and unveiled his massive mission on "GMA." The Pickens plan was a $60 million ad campaign to get America to kick its foreign oil addiction by switching to natural gas for the short term and wind for the long term.

In the 1950s, Pickens used $2,500 of borrowed money to form Mesa Petroleum, an oil and gas exploration company that led to his fortune.

Pickens said he's pleased that there are provisions for wind and solar power in the climate bill that has passed the House of Representatives and is headed for the Senate.

"We also have bill 1835, which is the House bill, introduced by [Rep. Dan] Boren … and that has the natural gas piece in it, where we're going to now use natural gas in place of foreign oil."

The bill would extend tax credits for the production of vehicles that use alternative fuels, such as natural gas, introduce new tax credits and require 50 percent of all new vehicles purchased or placed in service by the U.S. government by Dec. 31, 2014, to be capable of operating on compressed or liquefied natural gas.

Last year, Pickens said he hoped to make Pampa, Texas, "the wind capital of the world." He said he was aware that a lack of transmission lines or power grids to distribute wind power would pose a challenge but hoped that wind would ultimately replace natural gas as the energy source for many of the country's power plants.

"We've got more wind than anybody else in the world, just like they have more oil," Pickens said at the time. "I think that's the future of this country."

Pickens: Natural Gas Is 'the Only Option at This Point'

Pickens acknowledged that the recession posed challenges for the wind farm he invested $10 billion in, but said, "we'll get there."

"I mean what do you do in America, if you have changes, you don't give up," he said. "You don't say, 'Oh, it just didn't work out for me'...You need to get started on something. You need to get an oar in the water. You need to start solving a huge problem for America."

He was unable to secure financing for the transmission lines, and now acknowledges that natural gas is "the only option at this point," although he said he sees it as a bridge from oil to cleaner fuels.

"There's no other, there's nothing else to replace it. It's the one and only resource in America that today can replace foreign oil. It is a cleaner, abundant fuel."

Pickens doesn't believe the decline in gas prices hurt his campaign to raise awareness about energy efficiency.

"It's interesting, because if you look back -- that when the price went down, people lost interest," he said. "This time, I'm not kidding you. ... I think I have embedded that into the the psyche of the American people, that foreign oil, using it at the level we do, is not good for our country and very dangerous for our security."

"What you have to have is leadership," he continued. "We're sold. There's others that are going to be sold. There are others that understand it better than they did a year ago and the people that are with me are constantly sending e-mails to Washington saying, get an energy plan for America and release the security issue that we're confronted with."

Hopeful for the future, Pickens said he expected to have "natural gas fueling legislation before the end of the year."

"I think we're going to be very happy with what comes out of Congress on energy this year."