T. Boone! At 80, he’s reached mythic status. Here’s how USA Today describes him: a legendary Texas oilman, corporate raider, shareholder-rights crusader, philanthropist and deep-pocketed moneyman for conservative politicians. But yesterday Pickens unveiled what he’s calling the “Pickens Plan” for cutting the USA’s demand for foreign oil by more than a third in less than a decade.

Here’s what he says: “It’s an addiction that threatens our economy, our environment and our national security. It touches every part of our daily lives and ties our hands as a nation and a people. The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone. What’s the good news? The United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind power.” Pickens is also lauding natural gas as the new big thing for transportation fuels, but he seems to be genuinely more excited about wind potential. 

It’s like the Schwarzenegger-syndrome. Suddenly I love this guy. I’m not sure about the natural gas question, but otherwise, he’s nailing all the energy politics right on the head: we’re addicted; it’s bleeding our economy; it’s hurting American families; drilling is not the answer; the only way to take control of our energy future, build prosperity, and protect consumers is by jump-starting a clean energy economy.

And he’s taking his message to the masses. He has a website, www.pickensplan.com, and he’s launched a media campaign that promises to put his face in front of Americans as much as the mugs of McCain and Obama this fall. He’s even teamed up with the Sierra Club. Most of all, he’s insisting that our energy addiction is the number one issue of our times and that it shouldn’t be a partisan one.

Pickens uses Sweetwater, Texas as a case study for alternative energy production revitalizing rural America. Sweetwater was typical of many small towns in middle-America. With a shortage of good jobs, the youth of Sweetwater were leaving in search of greater opportunities. And the town’s population dropped from 12,000 to under 10,000.

When a large wind power facility was built outside of town, Sweetwater experienced a revival. New economic opportunity brought the town back to life and the population has grown back up to 12,000. “In addition to creating new construction and maintenance jobs,” the Pickens Plan proclaims, “thousands of Americans will be employed to manufacture the turbines and blades. These are high skill jobs that pay on a scale comparable to aerospace jobs.”

“There could be lots of Sweetwaters out there,” Pickens told USA Today.

More from the Pickens Plan website:

America is in a hole and it’s getting deeper every day. We import 70% of our oil at a cost of $700 billion a year – four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.

I’ve been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of. But if we create a new renewable energy network, we can break our addiction to foreign oil.

On January 20, 2009, a new President gets sworn in. If we’re organized, we can convince Congress to make major changes towards cleaner, cheaper and domestic energy resources.

You can watch videos of PIckens saying all this himself, and read more about the Plan here. And we’ll be following the Pickens Plan campaign in the coming months to see if this election season will bring forth a different sort of  changing of the guard: from one Texas oil man to another…

NPR interview with T. Boone here.