This is the text of a press release sent out this afternoon. In it Boone praises Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) for his leadership on the natural gas issue:

Legendary Texas energy executive T. Boone Pickens, the architect of “The Pickens Plan” to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, today praised U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for comments advancing the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel for the nation’s heavy duty fleet vehicle market.

Pickens praised the comments in a special email to the nearly 1.5 million members of “The New Energy Army” who have enlisted to help win support for the plan.

Pickens joined Reid and John Podesta, who heads up the Center for American Progress Action Fund, in a special telephone conference call with reporters on Monday to call attention to an upcoming energy summit to highlight the nation’s energy problems and to focus on near- and long-term solutions. That summit is scheduled in Washington, D.C., for February 23.

In the call, Reid highlighted natural gas as a domestic alternative to foreign oil/diesel in heavy duty fleet applications, a key element of “The Pickens Plan.” His remarks called for government leadership and support in making that happen.

“If we’re going to convert these big trucks into natural gas, there needs to be some big kick in the rear to get it done; it can’t be done in the private sector alone, and this is something that we need to take a look at,” Reid said.

“We need to see incentives, grants, planning dollars and some serious effort put into public-private partnerships to accelerate the deployment of heavy-duty natural gas vehicles and other clean-fuel vehicles and infrastructure,” he later told Dow Jones in an email.

“Hopefully, the economic recovery package, the next energy bill and maybe even the climate bill will expedite this shift away from greater dependence on oil,” he said.

Pickens, in an email to The New Energy Army, said he’s more optimistic than ever that leadership is developing within Washington, and in President Barack Obama’s administration, to get serious about America’s escalating dependence on foreign oil. Pickens said that dependency, nearing the 70 percent mark, threatens America’s national security and its economy.

“I think it’s important to commend Senator Reid for his remarks and urge his leadership and involvement going forward to make sure our abundant, domestic supply of clean burning natural gas becomes a cornerstone transportation fuel in heavy duty vehicles as Congress continues to advance energy legislation,” Pickens said.

Pickens noted that there are about six million heavy duty vehicles in the U.S., and that the U.S. can achieve a nearly 5 percent reduction in foreign oil/diesel use if just 350,000 begin using natural gas as a domestic alternative.

— The Pickens Team