Jeffrey Ball

One hundred eighty-six Members of Congress have signed on to H.R. 1830, the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (NAT GAS) Act of 2011, better known at this Web site as the Pickens-Your-Pocket Boonedoggle Bill, in honor of its chief lobbyist and beneficiary, billionaire T. Boone Pickens.

The bill would provide targeted tax breaks to subsidize the manufacture and purchase of natural gas vehicles, installation of natural gas refueling infrastructure, and production of compressed and liquefied natural gas for use as motor fuel. The bill includes no overall budget authorization. Moreover, many of the provisions modify current sections of the tax code, which in turn refer to other sections, and the Congressional Research Service inexplicably has yet to provide a bill summary. So the total amount of the tax breaks is anybody’s guess.

Nonetheless, the final tab has got to be huge even by Washington standards. Each manufacturer could claim credits of $4,000 per vehicle up to an overall amount of $200 million per year. Each purchaser could claim credits ranging from $7,500 to $64,000 per vehicle depending on how much the vehicle weighs. Each property installing natural gas fuel dispensers could claim a credit up to $30,000 (or $100,000 — it’s unclear). Each maker of compressed or liquefied natural gas could claim a credit of 50¢ per gallon for every gasoline-equivalent gallon sold. With anywhere from 225,000 to 400,000 18-wheelers sold in the USA each year, the vehicle purchase credits alone could cost billions.

T. Boone’s lobbying for these tax subsidies 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,” the Texas Gas Mogul told New York Times columnist Joe Nocera. [click to continue…]