Over the past three years, the language we have used to promote the Pickens Plan has become part of virtually every speech, essay, op-ed, editorial, and news story about transportation-fuel prices. For example, I have made the point that we should substitute 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 would be not nearly as difficult as it would be for drivers of passenger vehicles (which need to refuel wherever they happen to be when the fuel gauge reads close to “E”).
The Wall Street Journal ran a piece in mid-May that had this paragraph:
The typical semi-trailer truck guzzles 20,000 gallons of diesel annually and uses the same roads day after day. So switching trucks to natural gas from diesel, which comes from oil, could make a big dent in U.S. petroleum use. And it wouldn’t require building nearly as many new fueling stations as switching America’s roughly 240 million cars and light trucks to something other than oil
Sounded pretty familiar to the 1.6 million members of the Pickens Plan Army — people from every congressional district who have signed up on the Pickens Plan website to support our efforts.
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 give 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 support manufacturers in China and India, this credit would help jump-start that industry here, adding jobs up and down the supply chain.
There are people and companies — and think tanks they fund — that oppose the NAT GAS Act for a variety of reasons, most of them self-serving. There is no greater believer in free markets than I, but if you think OPEC is a free market, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. 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 which, in return, are helping to fund terrorism.
I do not believe that is what “We the People” are looking for in our leaders.
— T. Boone Pickens is founder and chairman of BP Capital and architect of the Pickens Plan. This piece originally appeared in the June 20, 2011, issue of National Review.