Pickens Takes a Step in the Right Direction

I am not a big T. Boone Pickens fan.  He has shown a propensity to promote public policies that are both unsound and self-interested.  Lately, he is a fan of HR 1380 (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:h.r.1380:), which gives tax credits for every form of use of natural gas except iPods (and that can’t be far behind.)

One of Pickens’ hobby horses is to use less natural gas for electric generation and more for natural gas vehicles, using the cudgel of government to achieve that end. He’s especially enamored of using natural gas for long-haul trucking.

Recently, a company in which he is a major investor, Clean Energy Fuels Corp, entered into an agreement with General Electric (another company enamored with responding to government subsidies and mandates) to build liquefied natural gas facilities for fueling stations that would cater to long-haul truckers. “General Electric Co (GE.N) reached a deal to sell equipment to Clean Energy Fuels Corp (CLNE.O), which is building out a series of liquefied natural gas fueling stations for U.S. truckers.” Reuters Article

In reading the Reuters article, I can find no instance in which this deal relies on government subsidies or mandates. While I may have my doubts about the long-term viability of natural gas as a transportation fuel (liquid fuels – diesel and gasoline – seem to have characteristics that make it a superior choice for mobile uses), I am the last one to judge where entrepreneurs put their money especially when they are uninfluenced by government subsidies or mandates.

Thus, I applaud Mr. Pickens reliance on market forces to try to change the direction of the use of energy in the US, especially given the new-found abundance of natural gas as a result of fracking technology. Let’s hope that this is not a momentary lapse in Mr. Pickens penchant for using and abusing public policy to achieve dubious energy policy goals. But rather is recognition that market forces should be the driving feature of change and innovation in energy markets.

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