A Texas oilman has decided the United States needs a plan to end our dependence on oil imports from nations such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, which use the hundreds of billions of dollars we pay them to fight against our best interests abroad.

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who is 82, discussed the details of his plan with members of the editorial board in a telephone interview last week.

He said his comprehensive “Pickens Plan” (www.pickensplan.com) will use fuel and clean-energy options available within the United States and some of its closest allies to generate electricity and keep trucks and cars moving along our highways.

Pickens says our “addiction to foreign oil” threatens our economy, environment and national security, and he also claims he has commitments from political leaders to include his ideas in any energy plan Congress creates.

It’s hard to argue with his diagnosis about some of the OPEC countries. The Saudis support Wahhabi extremists and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez stirs up trouble with his neighbors while crushing dissent at home.

Pickens’ problem is in the details of his plan. Each of its points is defensible, but it’s not at all obvious that we can remake large segments of the national infrastructure and economy without spending so much money that it would take decades to repay the investments his plan requires.

But if his claims of support in Washington are valid, it’s important to understand what he has in mind.

What got Pickens going was the rise in the use of imported oil since the Carter-era OPEC oil embargo. In the 1970s, he says, we imported 24 percent of our oil, and now we import nearly 70 percent of a much larger total, spending a whopping $475 billion on petroleum imports in 2008.

Every day 85 million barrels of oil are pumped out of the ground around the globe, and the United States uses 21 million. That’s a full 25 percent of production being used by just 4 percent of the world’s population, he notes.

That, however, is where his analysis hits its first bump — the U.S. GDP that oil allows us to produce tops 20 percent of the globe’s economic output. The U.S. economy, at $14.3 trillion in 2009, is second in total value only to the entire European Union.

Along with Europe, the United States is thus a principal driver of many other nations’ economic well-being. Thus, it would be hard to maintain our standard of living and lift up other nations while using less energy.

Of course, growth will require using more. Pickens is not opposed to that, but he wants us to redirect our economy both in the types of fuel we use and the ways in which we use them to focus on reducing imports from unfriendly nations. Thus, he wants the government to support:

Creating “millions of new jobs” by building enough wind turbines to generate 22 percent of our power from that source, which currently supplies only about 3 percent of the total.

Building a “21st-century backbone electrical grid” to get that power across transcontinental distances, which the regionalized grid we now have cannot support.

Giving incentives to homeowners and businesses to upgrade insulation and other energy-saving improvements to keep demand down.

And converting the nation’s 8 million commercial trucks from gas and diesel fuel to run on natural gas, which is in plentiful supply in this country.

Although he doesn’t mention them in his plan, Pickens is not opposed to major expansions of solar and nuclear power, more drilling for domestic oil and the use of “cleaner coal.”

All those sources are domestic, not foreign, and thus meet his goal of someday turning off the OPEC spigot.

But he opposes cap-and-trade, seeing it as a tax that would depress the economy instead of boosting it.

His plan contains many defensible positions, even wise ones, and he’s right that everything done or even suggested to date falls short of making this nation truly energy-independent in any reasonable period of time.

He has done us a great favor by using his vast resources to point that out and spur us to greater efforts toward creating a comprehensive energy plan focused on domestic resources.

However, he has also shown us how huge the problem is, and how much we will have to do to solve it. True, he makes it all sound easy, and it’s not.

But he has given us his vision as a starting place — and reminded us that unless we do start somewhere, we will never accomplish anything.