Pickens is still optimistic about wind energy effort

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FORT WORTH — Texas oilman turned energy sage Boone Pickens says that he’s received a pretty good hearing from Republicans and Democrats as he pitches his plan to decrease oil imports by using more natural gasBut that he has a problem with the Obama administration’s proposed budget, which would slash tax incentives for the U.S. petroleum industry.

Noting that drilling rigs are already being parked in response to low oil and gas prices, Pickens said, “if you want to shut them all down, go ahead and remove the tax credits.

“I don’t think you want to do that,” he deadpanned.

Pickens spoke in news media interviews shortly before addressing a capacity crowd of about 800 at Texas Christian University to promote his Pickens Plan, which calls for the nation to switch its transportation system to natural gas instead of gasoline and diesel. He also advocates more wind power to generate renewable electricity overnight for plug-in hybrid automobiles.

Pickens said his own huge wind-power project, planned in the Panhandle, faces a frozen credit market because of the financial crisis. His Mesa Power Co. proposes to build 2,700 wind turbines with about 4,000 megawatts of capacity, or about half of what currently exists in the entire state, which is by far the nation’s leader in wind power.

“There isn’t any credit. But I don’t get my turbines until 2011,” he said, and, as an optimist, he expects the credit markets to be more favorable before then. “I’m working on financing all the time,” he said.

He tells college students that it’s now their turn to work on solving America’s energy problem of sending hundreds of billions of dollars to overseas crude-oil producers.

“I ask college students to get familiar with the problem,” he said. “We’ve gone 40 years without an energy plan,” he said, but the discovery in the past decade of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas in areas like the Barnett Shale presents a new opportunity to create a plan.

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