Pickens "anxious" over wind farm project financing
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said on Monday he is "anxious" for his company's multibillion dollar plans to build a giant wind farm in Texas as the economic crisis chokes off project financing.
Mesa Power LLC is planning to build the world's largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle, but financiers for the project have disappeared in the economic downturn.
"Where's the money is the question. I don't know how we'll do it. I'm anxious to see what Obama comes up with. There is no money to finance a wind project now," Pickens told reporters at a briefing in New York City.
"I'm a little anxious."
Mesa Power began the first phase of the project, which is expected to cost $2 billion, earlier this year when it purchased over 600 wind turbines.
Wind power and natural gas are integral parts of the "Pickens Plan," a 10-year project to wean the United States off of foreign oil imports. The billionaire launched the plan this summer, when crude prices peaked over $147 a barrel and interest in alternative energy surged.
Since then, oil has tumbled to $44 a barrel as demand in the United States and other big consumer nations slowed.
"We had them standing in line a year ago, they were all over the place. A couple of them that we had have gone out of business," Pickens said.
Pickens, whose BP Capital hedge fund lost $2 billion earlier this year as energy prices tumbled and before it shifted into cash, said he does not believe prices will fall below $40 a barrel. He added prices could rebound back to the $100 a barrel level in a year if the economy recovers.
But even if oil prices remain low, interest in energy alternatives will not wane, Pickens said.
"Most everybody realizes that there is something wrong importing 70 percent of our oil, and over half of it coming from areas that are unfriendly to us," Pickens said.
"You know that at some point it's going to be disastrous for us. You don't know when, but it's going to come sometime."
Pickens said he believes the Obama administration may play a key role in promoting U.S. energy independence by extending tax credits for alternative energy -- such as the production tax credit for wind power -- and by taking the lead in promoting natural gas for heavy duty vehicles.
"President-Elect Obama has got out in front and said that we will not be importing any oil from the Middle East in 10 years ... and I think he does have a plan," Pickens said.
"He desperately wants to create jobs and he wants to get the economy going and I think that energy could be a big part of the solution."
Despite the challenges in financing the project, Pickens remained optimistic about plans for Mesa's wind farm.
"We don't receive turbines until late 2010, so you've got some time for a recovery and we'll see where we go from there," he said.
(Reporting by Rebekah Kebede)