Pickens Shifts Gears, Focuses On Natural Gas-Powered Trucks

Jan 28 2009 | 9:10am ET

The financial crisis may have put his ambitious wind-power plans on hold, but Texas oil billionaire and clean energy advocate T. Boone Pickens has other plans to reduce American reliance on imported oil.

Pickens is seeking up to $28 billion in federal economic stimulus incentives to convert about 350,000 heavy-duty trucks to natural gas from diesel. He told participants at the Cleantech Investor Summit in Palm Springs last week that he has met twice with President Barack Obama's transition team and leading Congressional Democrats to plug his plan.

"We have an abundance of natural gas in America,” said Pickens, "It's cheaper, it's cleaner, and it's ours."

The project is essentially part two of the energy plan Pickens unveiled last July. Part one involved construction of the biggest wind farm in Texas, but Pickens said that plan will be pushed back until at least 2011, when the wind turbines he's ordered are delivered.

In addition to converting the trucks (which he estimates will cost $75,000 per vehicle), the plan includes constructing 2,000 filling stations. In the process, he claims 400,000 jobs will be created. It could also benefit Clean Energy Fuels (NDSQ: CLNE), a California natural gas distributor he co-founded with investments in natural gas-powered transport.

While acknowledging that natural gas was not the greenest solution to the problem, Pickens said he also supported battery-powered electric vehicles, but felt the technology could not yet power long-haul trucks.

"Al Gore and I discussed these things, and Al of course would like to go to the battery on Monday morning," said Pickens. "But the technology is not there."

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