02/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Pickens Plan Floundering, But Has Helped Raise Grid Awareness

Mr. Pickens is also amassing a nationwide cadre of supporters, including a "Pickens Army" of 1.3 million online adherents. One such foot soldier is Ryan Jones, a 32-year-old automation student at Idaho State University in Pocatello. The goal is to have one designated foot soldier in all 435 congressional districts. Mr. Jones, who helped convert Pocatello's mayor, is now planning a recruitment party at the local brewery to "get some people signed up," he says.

Some top lawmakers credit the Pickens publicity barrage for solidifying support for updating the U.S. electricity grid, among other things. Majority Leader Harry Reid once labeled Mr. Pickens a "mortal enemy" but now calls him "a pal." Mr. Reid talks with Mr. Pickens every few weeks, aides say, mainly to update him on energy-related legislation.

Still, for all his labors, Mr. Pickens appears likely to fall short in his quest to force some mass conversion to natural gas-fueled transportation anytime soon. Legislation now in the works, top congressional aides say, will probably include some tax incentives to get companies to reduce their oil consumption, but not much more.

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