Senate to Consider Pickens-Your-Pocket-Boonedoggle Bill

by Marlo Lewis on March 8, 2012

in Features

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This afternoon the Senate will begin voting on highway bill amendments, which include the Burr/Menendez amendment, a.k.a. the New Alternative Transportation To Give America Solutions (NAT GAS) Act. Its chief lobbyist and beneficiary is billionaire T. Boone Pickens. If Congress were subject to truth in advertising laws, the amendment would be called the Pickens Payoff Plan or the Pickens-Your-Pocket-Boondoggle-Bill.

The Texas gas mogul’s lobbying for billions of dollars in tax credits for natural gas vehicles, fueling stations, and motor fuel is all about patriotism and energy security and has nothing to do with rent seeking or corporate welfare. Just ask him! “I’m sure not doing this for the money,” Pickens told the New York Times.

Only the Shadow knows what lurks in the minds of lobbyists, but the circumstantial evidence – Pickens’s huge investments in companies that would profit directly from Congress ramping up demand for natural gas vehicles, motor fuel, and infrastructure — is rather overwhelming. For some juicy details, see the commentary I posted on this site last year when the Boonedoggle Bill looked like it might actually go somewhere in the House.

None of this is to denigrate the potential of natural gas as a transportation fuel. Over the past few years, natural gas prices have fallen as petroleum prices have increased. Responding to this price disparity, GM and Chrysler plan to produce thousands of bi-fuel picks that can run on either natural gas or gasoline,  Rob Bradley points out today at MasterResource.Org.

Fracking has been so successful in increasing natural gas supplies that producers worry about prices being too low. Pickens’s corporate welfare “solution” is to empower politicians to screw consumers by artificially stimulating demand and taxpayers by increasing the deficit.

The better alternative, argues Bradley, are market-driven “self-help” strategies such as increasing U.S. gas exports to high-price markets and offering long-term pricing deals to companies with bi-fuel vehicle fleets.

BobRGeologist March 8, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I believe it is high time we utilize the fossil fuel resources North America has been so richly endowed to help to bail us out of the economic hole we find ourselves due to the excesses of our bloated government. First it is most important to stop throwing money at the fiction that man’s use of these fuels is causing overheating of our planet. We should be concentrating on harvesting the energy reserves north of the 40th parallel of latitude because the climate history of the Pleistocene period , which we have been in for
the past million years tells me that another 100 thousand year glaciation is inevitable as long as glacial ice remains in our polar regions.

Toes March 9, 2012 at 11:00 am

US consume about 20 million barrels of crude and produce about 8 million. The Pickens Plan would displace 9 million barrels of crude. These fueling stations are currently being built but the trucking industry is still resisting. Congress should pass the Nat Gas Act to encourage trucking companies to convert their long haul tractor trailer trucks to LNG to displace the 9 million barrels of crude consumption. Problem is republican support for the Koch brothers industries that consume natural gas so each and every republican senator voted against the bill during the last vote. Far better to use domestic natural gas in US tractor trailer trucks and latter in US trains and still latter to produce 2nd generation ethanol which make ethanol from waste paper, corn cobs, etc. to fuel cars with high compression (more fuel efficient) engines designed to use E85. This would free US trucks, US trains, and US cars from ever more expensive world crude prices.

charles stewart March 9, 2012 at 11:31 am

so what, will chrysler, tesla, general motors and ford benefit from natural gas use?

Alice March 13, 2012 at 8:54 am

I think the point here is about corporate welfare, which even the most strict of socialists will back if it involves reducing CO2 (for which Pickens, Buffet, BP, GE all give thanks). If your corporation wants lots of taxpayer money, all you have to do is say “we’re green” and voila! Money. The “1%” make millions this way and the wall street protestors are all for the programs that hand out that money.
As for the price of oil, if Americans would just realize that the middle east does not have 2/3 of the oil and this myth is just used to justify price gouging, the oil prices would stabilize. It’s clever–pick and unstable area with oil and convince every one all the oil is in this area. Then any unrest justifies gouging customers with huge price increases. The more people believe it, the higher you can raise prices. Americans want to believe and the gas prices show they certainly are falling for this.

Alamo March 15, 2012 at 10:26 am

The US and North America in general are blessed with huge reserves of natural gas. In addition to that richly abundant resource we in the US have the world’s most highly developed pipeline infrastructure —its already in place. (A Chinese energy minister stated that if China had the proven nat gas reserves AND the pipelines that we have the Chinese would all be driving on nat gas —it’s a veritable “no brainer” from their perspective)

Consider that we in the US have some 2,000 Tcf (trillion cubic feet). JP Morgan energy analysts suggest that figure is closer to 4,000 Tcf. At current usage rates that 2,000 Tcf is enough nat gas to last over 100 future years. If we converted our transportation systems to compressed natural gas (CNG), we could operate on it for at least the next 50 years –that’s 5 decades or 2 future generations. And during that future period certainly our scientists and engineers can develope, perfect and commercialize the ultimate and virtually inexhaustible national/world energy source.
Whether its solar, wind, fusion, geothermal, ocean currents, biomass, etc or a combination of these potential solutions, it’s a doable project.

America needs an interim, short term solution other than continuing our devastating dependency and addiction to crude oil —a commodity that we do not have in anywhere near the equivalent energy reserves we have in American natural gas.
It comes down to deciding if we want to utilize a purely American commodity versus continuing to rely on a world commodity tightly and monopolistically controlled by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries –the hated world oil dictators of OPEC. Our OPEC “friends” are literally bankrupting this nation as we now annually send 450 billion dollars to their —not our—world petroleum market.

This is absurd; it’s an economic insanity and a national ruination. Just consider that the US military and the United States Navy in particular, is primarily responsible for enabling OPEC to send its crude throughout the world. Our navy protects those international shipping lanes that all crude tankers use. (Various experts suggest that there is some $2.00 to $5.00 or more in national defense costs attached to each and every gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel Americans purchase —that $3.65 gasoline is actually costing American taxpayers possibly double the pump price in national defense costs alone!

As nat gas is a vastly superior internal combustion engine fuel than either gasoline or diesel, it has enormous mechanical and environmental attributes over those crude derivatives. With considerably cleaner emmissions it heightens air quality over them as well.

But the overriding reason for utilizing American natural gas in our transportation system is the simple fact that it is ours. By doing so we can materially reduce that annual outflow of some 450 billion dollars each year to the world oil market. By keeping much of that massive amount of national wealth here in our nation, it has the opportunity to provide a superior mode of mobility and allow that money to circulate and multiply the enormous economic benenefit it represents to virtually every aspect of our economy. It would have the real economic potential to add some trillion or more dollars to the American econonomy each year that we now are getting only a single use from –Hauling ourselves, goods and services from Point A to Point B that costs us 450 billion dollars and then is lost to the “OPEC marketeers”. (With much of it ultimately used to fund worldwide terrorism.)

If we could design, build and deliver an atomic bomb in less than 5 years and send and return a man tot he moon in less tha 8 years, certainly this nation is capable of transitioning our transportation system(s) to one fueled by an abundant, clean, cheap and American energy source, American natural gas as well.

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