Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens joined lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to propose legislation that would more than double tax breaks for people who buy cars that run on natural gas.
Under the plan, the $5,000 tax credit for natural gas vehicles, set to expire in 2010, would increase to $12,500 for passenger cars and light trucks.
The move comes a day after Pickens postponed a plan to create the world's largest wind farm in Texas. The billionaire had spent $60 million advertising his plan to combat what he calls the United States' addiction to foreign oil.
Pickens tells Robert Siegel that tight credit markets and the absence of transmission lines, which would carry wind energy from the turbines to the grid, made the postponement necessary. But, he says, the turbines and financing will be available in 2011, and the transmission will be up by 2013.
"So, it'll all fit together," he says. "We'll just be a couple of years behind schedule."
Much has changed since Pickens embarked on his multimillion-dollar ad campaign to promote renewables and end the dependence on foreign oil. For one thing, oil prices have fallen dramatically from triple-digit highs to just above $60 per barrel. Pickens, however, highlights a sense of urgency to move away from foreign oil use.
"The price is cheaper so the pain is less, but the security issue is still No. 1," Pickens says. "Can you imagine importing almost 70 percent of your oil from foreign countries, and over half of that oil is coming from countries that really are not friendly to us? They hate us."
Pickens says the abundance of natural gas, which he promoted Wednesday, makes it a clear alternative to oil.
"It's cheaper. It's cleaner by 50 percent than oil, and it's available to us," he says.
Pickens says he expects tax-break legislation in place by the end of Congress' August recess.