WASHINGTON, July 13 (UPI) -- T. Boone's Pickens, whose ambitious Texas wind farm plan ran into distribution problems, is turning to natural gas in his attempt to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Two years ago Pickens, a Texan who became a billionaire in the oil business and now runs the BP Capital Management hedge fund, announced that he planned to erect the largest wind farm in the world in the Texas Panhandle.
He foresaw a farm of more than 400,000 acres on land that is constantly buffeted by stiff winds. Turbines 400 feet tall would dot the landscape and generate 4,000 megawatts of electricity. The project carried a $12 billion price tag.
"We've got more wind than anybody else in the world, just like they have more oil," Pickens told ABC News at the time. "I think that's the future of this country."
The plan was to reduce the need for the United States to import oil from countries "that really are not friendly to us."
Pickens spent $60 million advertizing his wind farm scheme, but the plan has been postponed because the proposed site is too far from transmission lines and tight credit during the recession has led to delays in financing.
Pickens told NPR's "All Things Considered" that he expected funding to be more available by 2011 and transmission systems would be ready by 2013.
Until then, Pickens is looking for natural gas to reduced oil usage. Pickens was on Capitol Hill last Wednesday posing with a posse of members of Congress who support the NAT GAS Act. That measure would extend the alternative fuel credits for natural gas used as a vehicle fuel and expands the number of vehicles eligible for tax credits for using natural gas.
It would also require that by 2015, 50 percent of vehicles placed in service by the federal government be capable of running on compressed or liquefied natural gas. If the bill is enacted, the tax credit for passenger cars and light trucks that use natural gas would be $12,500. The current credit, which expires next year, is $5,000.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said vehicles operating on natural gas cut toxic emissions by more than 90 percent, and natural gas has the ability to displace all of the petroleum used by heavy-duty vehicles. More to Pickens' point, 98 percent of the natural gas used in the United States originates in North America.
He said the recent drop in oil prices -- it is less than half the record $147 a barrel of a year ago -- may have made the drive for alternative fuels less vital to many people, but the overarching problem of oil importation remains.
"The price is cheaper so the pain is less but the security issue is still No. 1," Pickens told "All Things Considered."
As to natural gas, Pickens said: "It's cheaper. It's cleaner by 50 percent than oil and it's available to us."
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