Pickens vows that we’re going to have the Natural Gas Act legislation by Memorial Day.

T. Boone Pickens, the 81-year-old oilman, geologist and Chairman of BP Capital Management, is on a mission to get the U.S. off of OPEC oil and on to domestic natural gas -- and he insists that he doesn't have a lot of time left on earth to get it done.

He testified today at a Ways and Means Committee hearing in Washington D.C. on the topic of “Energy Tax Incentives Driving the Green Job Economy.”

As usual, Pickens began his testimony with a folksy homily.  He said that his parents told him, "Son, a fool with a plan can a beat a genius with no plan."  Well, genius or fool, Pickens has a plan, all right: the $62 million Pickens Project that aims to wean the U.S. off of foreign oil.

Pickens said that his mission was catalyzed by listening to presidential candidates (both Republican and Democrat) say over the last few decades, "Elect me and we'll be energy independent," but never making good on their promises.  

"We are awash in natural gas," according to Pickens -- he claims that the United States has natural gas reserves that are equivalent to 700 billion barrels of oil and it is his personal crusade to move that ocean of natural gas into the American transportation sector.  He claims to have already spent $62 million of his money on this quest, known as the Pickens Plan. 

He's going to get natural gas into the U.S. transportation sector by getting the Natural Gas Act (HR 1835) through the House, and pushing Senate Bill 1408 through that august body. Transitioning the nation's 18-wheelers to run on natural gas is his first target.  The legislation has bipartisan support, with nearly 150 House and Senate co-sponsors split down party lines.

Boone wants the U.S. to "just get eight million trucks done."  We have 250 million vehicles in the U.S., "so eight million is doable."  Once those eight million are done, according to Pickens, the results will be "so outstanding" that we can move to light-duty trucks. He said that AT&T's fleet is already moving entirely to natural gas.

Earlier this year, Pickens said, "We are five times bigger than the Saudis" in terms of natural gas reserves / fuel equivalent.  Natural gas is "cleaner" and "it's under our feet."  He also said that the U.S. would go down in history as the dumbest country ever to have graced the globe if we do not make this transition.

Pickens mentioned that skeptics say there are no filling stations for natural gas.  But according to Pickens, "Filling is easy; the resource is the hard part, and we have the resource." He adds, "The worst thing you can do is to tax the domestic oil industry. Tax foreign oil, instead."
The Pickens Plan wants to create jobs which cannot be “offshored," and which utilize domestic resources.  Transforming eight million class 8 heavy duty 18-wheelers into natural gas vehicles over seven years can "cut OPEC in half."  Pickens claims that passing the NAT GAS Act will create more than 600,000 new, high quality, long-term, well-paying jobs by jump-starting a natural gas vehicle (NGV) industry in the U.S.

Jeffrey Sachs, Ph.D., director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, testified at the hearing as well, and he had this to say: "We have absolutely no energy plan. We have one hundred good ideas and no plan." He added, "There are lots of choices but only a few that count -- large-scale solar, wind, nuclear, natural gas, EVs and grid flexibility."

Joseph Romm, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, also testified today, and added, "Our energy policy is a Ponzi scheme."


The Congressional Research Service created this summary of HR 1835:

New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2009 - Amends the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) allow an excise tax credit through 2027 for alternative fuels and fuel mixtures involving compressed or liquefied natural gas; (2) allow an income tax credit through 2027 for alternative fuel motor vehicles powered by compressed or liquefied natural gas; (3) modify the tax credit percentage for alternative fuel vehicles fueled by natural gas or liquefied natural gas; (4) allow a new tax credit for the production of vehicles fueled by natural gas or liquefied natural gas; and (5) extend through 2027 the tax credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property expenditures for refueling property relating to compressed or liquefied natural gas and allow an increased credit for such property. Requires 50% of all new vehicles purchased or placed in service by the U.S. government by December 31, 2014, to be capable of operating on compressed or liquefied natural gas. Authorizes the Secretary of Energy to make grants to manufacturers of light and heavy duty natural gas vehicles for the development of engines that reduce emissions, improve performance and efficiency, and lower cost.

Here are some excerpts from Pickens' written testimony:

In January 2010 our trade deficit for the month was $37.3 billion; $27.5 billion of that was money we sent overseas to import oil.  Put another way, three-quarters of our trade deficit is foreign oil. 

In the recent past, natural gas was considered to be a declining resource which needed to be protected so that there was sufficient material to be a peaking fuel for power generation, a  heating and cooking fuel, and as feed stock for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.  Eighteen months ago the Potential Gas Committee, in conjunction with the Colorado School of Mines, issued its biennial report suggesting that including shale, America’s natural gas reserves  were now sufficient to serve our needs for the next 100 years which took a great deal of pressure off the need to husband its use.

Then, more recently, a J.P. Morgan study (including Canada) projected reserves of 8,000 trillion cubic feet (Tcf).  Even if only half of that in-place gas is commercially viable for recovery, that more than doubles the reserve life of our domestic natural gas to over 200 years’ supply. 

Natural gas is an environmentally friendly fuel – certainly the most environmentally friendly of  the fossil fuels.  One of the reasons is, the molecular composition of methane is four hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom.  When burned as a transportation fuel, the 4-1 hydrogen-to-carbon ratio creates a fraction of the greenhouse gases of gasoline and, unlike diesel exhaust particulate, natural gas particulate is not listed as a known toxic air contaminant. Natural gas is one of the most widely distributed resources in America.  Natural gas lines run up every street and down every alley of nearly every city and town in our nation.  Natural gas is safe.  Few people would cook over a stove in the kitchen of their home fueled by gasoline, but tens of millions of natural gas ranges are used to safely cook our meals every day indoors.
Using natural gas as a transportation fuel would make a major impact on the job market at home well into the future.
Natural gas is the perfect fuel to immediately reduce our dependence on foreign oil and -- to the point of this hearing -- jumpstart a natural gas vehicle industry in the United States.