Billionaire Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens is firing back against conservative critics who have called his plan for advancing natural-gas-powered vehicles a boondoggle.
In an opinion piece, Pickens makes a constitutional argument for the Natural Gas Act, which would create billions of dollars in tax credits to encourage motorists and businesses to buy the vehicles.
Those tax credits would mean “someone gets to keep more of the money he’s earned, rather than giving it to the government to spend on who knows what,” Pickens says. “It is not a government grant. And this tax credit, unlike many others, (would have) a sunset provision of five years.”
Pickens makes the case that the tax credit plan would help promote a domestic manufacturing capability for natural gas-powered vehicles and could help lessen U.S. dependence on foreign imports of oil. The increased energy security, he says, dovetails with the Constitution’s charge to Congress to “provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.”
“Absent a plan of their own, critics of my plan are for the status quo, which is to continue sending billions of dollars to OPEC nations, many of whom, in return, are helping to fund terrorism,” Pickens says.
Pickens is responding to attacks by fiscally conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and Americans for Tax Reform, which argue that industry-specific tax credits are bad economic policy.
The legislation has 188 sponsors in the House, even though four Republican lawmakers citing the same fiscal concerns withdrew their support last month.
Pickens’ opinion piece is available after the jump.
Support U.S. Natural Gas
It’s the key to energy security.
by T. Boone Pickens
In Article I, Section 8, the United States Constitution grants Congress the“Power To,” among other things, “provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States”; “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations”; and “lay and collect Taxes.”
While the Constitution does not speak directly to establishing an energy policy, the need for such a policy is certainly implied in the powers granted over defense, general welfare, commerce with foreign nationals, and the laying and collecting of taxes.
In July 2008, with oil at nearly $150 per barrel, gasoline well over $4 per gallon, and the economy in free-fall, I introduced the Pickens Plan, a comprehensive energy policy to reduce our dependence on OPEC oil.
Unfortunately, we have not made much progress.
In April 2011, we spent about $42 billion on imported oil. Annualized, that amounts to half a trillion dollars shipped to such countries as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Angola, and Iraq. I can’t find anyone who thinks putting our economy (“general Welfare”) and energy security (“common Defense”) in to the hands of unstable and unfriendly countries such as those (“Commerce with foreign Nations”) is a good idea.
It is not difficult to see the link between sending hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars to unfriendly nations and the continued ability of terrorist organizations to recruit, organize, train, and deploy fanatics who are bent on doing America harm. Someone is paying for all that, and I believe that someone is us.
About 70 percent of the oil we import is used as our primary transportation fuel: as gasoline for our national fleet of 250 million cars and light trucks, or as diesel fuel for our 8 million heavy-duty and fleet trucks. All that oil accounts for two-thirds of our trade deficit, which, along with several other elements, puts a drag on our ability to recover from the recession.
From its earliest days, the Pickens Plan was designed to replace a significant amount of imported oil with domestic natural gas as atransitional transportation fuel.
About one year into the Pickens Plan, an organization called the Potential Gas Committee—which is associated with the Colorado School of Mines—released a report that, for the first time, recognized that a significant amount of the enormous natural-gas reserves known to be contained in the vast shale deposits under the continental U.S. are now available for economically viable recovery, because of the development of a horizontal hydro-fracturing drilling technique. Additional studies were released indicating that our natural-gas reserves could last more than 100 years and contain more energythan all the oil in Saudi Arabia.
We should substitute that domestic natural gas for imported diesel for heavy trucks, because (a) 18-wheelers use a significant amount of that 70 percent of imported oil we use for transportation, and (b) drivers of over-the-road trucks (long-haul trucks with regular routes) tend to stop for rest, food, and fuel at the same places on each trip, so finding regular natural-gas refueling stops for 18-wheelers is not nearly as difficult as it would be for drivers of passenger vehicles.
Congress is considering a bill named the NAT GAS Act (H.R. 1380). It provides targeted tax credits (“lay and collect Taxes”) for companies to replace their current fleets burning imported diesel with vehicles running on domestic natural gas. Keep in mind, a tax credit means someone gets to keep more of the money he’s earned, rather than giving it to the government to spend on who knows what. It is not a government grant. And this tax credit, unlike many others, has a sunset provision of five years.
Why do we need a tax credit at all? Because there is almost no manufacturing capability for natural-gas vehicles in the United States. Rather than supporting manufacturers in China and India, this credit would help jump-start that industry here, adding jobs up and down the supply chain.
Not everyone has embraced the Pickens Plan nor the NAT GAS Act. Absent a plan of their own, critics of my plan are for the status quo, which is to continue sending billions ofdollars to OPEC nations, many of whom, in return, are helping to fund terrorism.
I do not believe that is what “We the People” are looking for in our leaders.
Pickens is founder and chairman of BP Capital and architect of the Pickens Plan.