Opinion Columns & Blogs

T. Boone Pickens: Natural gas better for economy, environment

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, is making what can only be called a "rookie mistake" in his highly public opposition to subsidies for fuels of any kind (May 14 Eagle).

What Pompeo might not understand is that there is a difference between a targeted incentive and a never-ending subsidy paid by the federal government on a per-gallon, per-kilowatt or per-anything basis. The latter is a check from the Treasury to a producer.

The New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act (H.R. 1380) extends highly targeted tax incentives (not federal grants) to organizations that have heavy vehicles currently burning diesel. The NAT GAS Act would provide incentives for fleet owners to change from diesel-powered trucks to vehicles running on natural gas. The incentives would be limited to a specific amount and for a specific length of time — five years.

The legislation is designed to help jump-start a natural-gas vehicle industry in the United States, which would provide new jobs ranging from design engineers to toolmakers to manufacturers to those who maintain the vehicles.

The specific reason for this bill is not to pick one fuel over another. It is to pick the United States over OPEC.

Last month, the United States consumed about 19 million barrels of oil a day. We produced just more than 8 million barrels a day. Where did the rest of it come from?

We imported 11.5 million barrels of oil every day at a cost of $42.5 billion for the month. At that rate, we will be sending more than half a trillion dollars offshore just to pay for the oil we have to import.

Putting aside oil we buy from Mexico and Canada, which are the two largest oil suppliers, our next five oil-trading partners, in order, are Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Angola and Iraq.

Pompeo has sided with the same old special interests — chemical companies, refiners and ethanol producers — that have blocked meaningful attempts to address the OPEC demand crisis for four decades. He apparently wants to continue to put the United States in the position of depending upon countries that are unstable, unfriendly or both.

Why switch heavy trucks to natural gas? First of all, it is one of the most abundant natural resources in the United States. Reports now show that we have a 100-year supply of natural gas, containing more energy than all the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia.

Natural gas is cheaper than oil. On a Btu-equivalent basis, natural gas costs about one-fifth as much as imported diesel.

It is cleaner; natural gas is about 30 percent cleaner than petroleum and produces no particulate emissions.

Natural gas works as a replacement fuel for heavy vehicles because neither batteries nor ethanol can produce enough horsepower to push them. Only diesel and natural gas can do that.

If Pompeo is opposed to using federal dollars to "pick winners and losers," then he should come out in opposition to all such subsidies.

We have to be careful of special interests that are willing to use government subsidies in their own businesses and hope no one notices them while they attempt to throw any other form of incentives under the economic bus.

Could Pompeo's opposition to the NAT GAS Act be driven by his campaign donors? The only other possible reason for his opposition to changing the status quo is if he is in favor of maintaining our dependence on OPEC oil, and that can't be it.

I hope his constituents will demand an answer to this question: Are you for America, or those who profit from foreign/OPEC oil?