A Tuesday blog posting by T. Boone Pickens says Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott was impressed enough with his energy plan that he ordered a quick study on the feasibility of converting the company’s 8,500 truck fleet to natural gas power.

Pickens, speaking to a group of Wal-Mart associates, including Scott, in Bentonville, AR, wrote that Lee’s interest was piqued when the discussion turned to powering truck fleets with natural gas as opposed to diesel.

“Lee looked over at the guy who runs the Wal-Mart fleet and asked how many trucks they have,” Pickens wrote. “About 8,500 tractors, he was told. Lee told him to pick one distribution center—a typical one—and study what would be involved in replacing diesel tractors with natural gas. He wanted a report back to him in a month.”

Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter confirmed to Fleet Owner that Pickens did address the associates, but would not confirm any details of the conversation.

“As a matter of practice, we don’t confirm” internal meeting discussions, Rossiter said.

“To have America’s largest retailer looking into shifting their trucking fleet to run on natural gas is a major step towards our country’s energy independence,” Pickens wrote in the Pickens Plan e-mail.

Wal-Mart is now testing four Peterbilt Model 386 tractors powered by liquefied natural gas engines converted by Westport Innovations. Also, the retailer is working with Peterbilt’s parent company, Paccar Inc., and component supplier Eaton Corp. to develop a production-ready Class 8 hybrid tractor by 2009.

“We’re looking at a variety of ways to meet the goals we’ve set to reduce the amount of energy we use,” Rossiter said.

Wal-Mart has set 2015 as the deadline to make its tractor-trailer fleet 50% more efficient, which would cut an estimated 26 billion lbs. of carbon dioxide out of the air by 2020.

The 80-year-old Pickens made his fortune in oil with Mesa Petroleum, a company he founded, but has switched in recent years to supporting alternative energy sources, including natural gas and wind power.

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