A pair of bills that would help to jump start the economy and employment, improve national security and promote one of the nation's most important and plentiful resources -- natural gas -- are "ready for action" when Congress reconvenes this week, according to independent oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens.

"There's a lot on America's plate, but the health care debate is nearly over and it's time now to go back and look at the energy situation," Pickens said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. Pickens will unveil on Thursday a new advertising campaign designed to drum up support for natural gas legislation.

In 2008 Pickens unveiled an energy plan that he said could reduce America's dependence on foreign oil by more than one-third within 10 years by shifting the national energy mix toward domestic renewable sources and using more natural gas as a transportation fuel (see NGI, July 14, 2008). Pickens said he would fund an aggressive advertising and Internet education campaign to advance the Pickens Plan, which he said could save the country more than $230 billion a year. On Wednesday Pickens said more than $60 million has been spent on the campaign so far.

Pickens supports the NAT GAS Act (HR 1835), which seeks to establish a sustained market for natural gas vehicles (NGV) and rein in gas market volatility, and S 1408, which seeks to extend and expand federal tax credits for NGV and refueling infrastructure (see NGI, July 13, 2009). The NAT GAS Act may become part of a comprehensive jobs package, according to Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK), co-chair of the House Natural Gas Caucus (see NGI, Nov. 23, 2009).

According to Pickens, gas-friendly legislation that could create jobs and bolster the United States' economy should appeal to politicians in an election year.

"Members need a positive, non partisan, pro-American program they can vote for and tell their constituents about," Pickens said.

The Pickens plan originally included a major wind component, including private-sector funding for wind turbines and the transmission lines needed to them to the grid (see NGI, July 14, 2008) and, until recently, Pickens had his own plans to build the world's largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle (see Power Market Today, Aug. 20, 2007). Pickens abandoned his wind farm plans last year (see Power Market Today, July 8, 2009) and the newest Pickens Plan advertising campaign focuses on natural gas.

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