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Are Republicans Coming to their Senses about Natural Gas Subsidies?


In the wake of the debt ceiling negotiations that paralyzed Washington for weeks and the ensuing last-minute deal that has been criticized by many on the right for failing to change the way Washington spends money, it looks like Republicans supportive of pending natural gas subsidy legislation are eager to avoid shining too much light on the bill – which makes sense considering it distorts the energy market by using taxpayer money to pick winners and losers in the natural gas industry.

Last Wednesday, the House Ways and Means committee abruptly cancelled a scheduled hearing on the NAT GAS Act. From Politico’s Morning Energy:


House Ways and Means has postponed its hearing on energy tax policy, putting off a potentially testy intra-Republican squabble over the NAT GAS Act to subsidize natural gas vehicles.

What is the NAT GAS Act? Well, it’s right in line with the Obama Administration’s overreaching regulatory agenda, but because some Republicans favor it the blame can’t be laid at the foot of Obama and the Democrats. From an earlier post on Washington’s war on businesses:

-An item that’s technically legislation, not regulatory rulemaking, but stands to pack the same economically ruinous punch is the NAT GAS Act (H.R. 1380) which heavily subsidizes businesses and consumers who switch to natural gas-fueled vehicles directly benefiting billionaires T. Boone Pickens and George Soros at the taxpayers’ expense. The subsidies – ahem, ‘tax credits’ – come in at a whopping $7,500 per passenger car, $64,000 for heavy-duty trucks and 18-wheelers, and up to $100,000 for gas stations installing natural gas pumps.

Referring to government subsidies as ‘tax credits’ is the oldest trick in the book to rally Republican support for a liberal proposal, and in this case it worked. Although some Republicans have pulled their support for the bill, over 70 GOP Members of Congress are on record as still supporting the bill.

So, qui bono?

The obvious beneficiary is energy-sector billionaire T. Boone Pickens; the blueprint behind the NAT GAS Act is often referred to as the ‘Pickens Plan.’ While Pickens’ rationale for his proposal is centered on decreasing US dependence on foreign oil, it is clear that billions of dollars of taxpayer money pouring into the natural gas industry would benefit Pickens personally. From Red State:

As the Dallas News reports, Pickens is the largest shareholder in Clean Energy Fuels (CEF), which owns and operates 200 natural gas stations across the country. CEF owns BAF, a Dallas-based company that just happens to convert vehicles to run on natural gas. And Mr. Pickens also owns mineral rights to almost 200,000 acres believed to have significant natural gas resources. So he wants to have legislation put in place that would create a demand for natural gas that would then create a need to convert cars and big rigs to run on natural gas which would of course need stations to refuel as well. He’s got all the bases covered.

The NAT GAS Act has another direct beneficiary who carries much more alarming implications; none other than notorious liberal agenda-pusher and hedge fund billionaire George Soros. Soros has realized the best way to make any money in Obama’s economy is to get it directly from the government, and his fingerprints are all over the NAT GAS Act. From an earlier BigGovernment post on the topic:

According to the website GuruFocus, which tracks the investment habits and portfolio trends of some of the world’s richest people, George Soros has made some intriguing investments into alternative fuel companies of late, specifically those at the forefront of natural gas. This would not be so troubling except that, as GuruFocus points out, Soros has accurately predicted both economic bubbles and quickly growing industries. As a result, Soros’s funds have turned out a 30% return on investments since their inception.

One of the stocks Soros invested in recently is Westport Innovations (WPST), a global supplier of “solutions” that allow vehicles to operate on clean-burning fuels, such as natural gas. In fact, they are the world’s leading engineer of natural gas engines. Westport is currently working with Caterpillar to develop a natural-gas powered engine that would work in a number of utility vehicles, all of which would be eligible for the subsidies Congress is now considering. Soros’s investment funds have pumped about $122 million into WPST, and he’s added to his control as recently as December and March, when he picked up over a million shares, bringing his total to 5.5 million shares.

No other major investor shares his rosy outlook for natural gas engines, and the stock has barely crept up during the time Soros has held it, leading many to suspect Soros knows of a major future development. Could that development be Congress’s NAT GAS act? It seems likely.

It should be clear to Congressional Republicans by now that given the public’s largely negative reaction to the debt deal’s underwhelming spending cuts, and support within their own party for natural gas subsidies becoming more tepid by the day, that the NAT GAS Act is a lose-lose situation for them and for the American taxpayers. Hopefully, it was just this rationale that prompted Ways and Means to cancel last week’s hearing; lets hope their next step is to kill the bill.

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