Former Oilman T. Boone Pickens Taps Wind Power, Natural Gas to Replace Foreign Oil

By Jennifer Yousfi
Managing Editor

He made his fortune as an oilman, but yesterday (Tuesday) legendary investor T. Boone Pickens unveiled a plan to cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil through the power of alternatives such as wind and natural gas.

"We're paying $700 billion a year for foreign oil. It's breaking us as a nation, and I want to elevate that question to the presidential debate, to make it the No. 1 issue of the campaign this year," Pickens said, USA Today reported.

Pickens launched a Website titled "Pickens Plan," which went live yesterday, to outline what he calls a "bridge to the future" to help cut foreign oil imports by focusing on wind-generated power and natural-gas burning autos. 

And Pickens isn't being shy about taking his plan to the politicians.

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"Neither presidential candidate is talking about solving the oil problem. So we're going to make 'em talk about it," Pickens said.

"Nixon said in 1970 that we were importing 20% of our oil and that by 1980 it would be 0%. That didn't happen," Pickens added. "It went to 42% in 1991 with the Gulf War. It's just under 70% now. Where do you think we're going to be in 10 years when our economy is busted and we're importing 80% of our oil?"

Pickens' plan aims to cut down on oil imports in a two-prong strategy. First, he recommends the construction of wind power plants to free up natural gas that is currently being used to generate 22% of the United States power supply. That natural gas can then be used to power cleaner-burning automobiles.

Pickens' Wind Power Project

Wind power could supply up to 20% of the United States' energy requirements, according to Pickens. Calling the Great Plains region of the United States the "Saudi Arabia of wind," the former oil tycoon has already started an eventual $10 billion alternative energy project that has the potential to become the world's largest wind farm in the Texas panhandle.

Picken's Mesa Power LLP plans to purchase 667 wind turbines from General Electric Co. (GE). Each turbine can produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity. The first phase of the project, currently under construction, will produce 1,000 megawatts, enough energy to power 300,000 homes. GE will begin delivering the turbines in 2010, and current plans call for the project to start producing power in 2011.

Ultimately, Mesa Power plans to have enough turbines to produce 4,000 megawatts of energy. Overall, the Pampa project is expected to cost $10 billion and be completed in 2014.

As an investor, if you're looking to cash in on Pickens' wind-power mandate, the manufacturers of wind turbines might be a good choice. Two of the largest include the aforementioned GE and Siemens AG (ADR: SI). GE has already received a $2 billion order from Pickens and expects another $6 billion in orders from the planned 4,000 MW Pampa project alone.  Siemens will supply the turbines for a 500 MW wind farm planned in the United Kingdom.

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