WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday defeated a bipartisan proposal backed by energy investor T. Boone Pickens to spur the production of natural gas vehicles.
The proposal needed 60 votes to be approved as an amendment to a bill renewing highway construction programs, but it only got 51, mostly from Democrats. Oklahoma's senators split, with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, voting for it and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, voting against.
Offered by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., the bill would offer tax credits for the production and purchase of natural gas vehicles and offset the cost to the U.S. Treasury by imposing a fee on the gas used to fuel the vehicles.
Several conservative groups have come out against the proposal, contending that it would use taxpayer subsidies to back a favored energy source.
Menendez argued that natural gas was plentiful and cheaper than gasoline and diesel. Burr said creating more demand for natural gas was the key to keeping prices low because some companies are already abandoning natural gas drilling projects because of the supply glut.
Pickens has pushed hard for the legislation, saying the country could dramatically reduce its oil imports just by having heavy trucks run on natural gas. Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon has also promoted the bill.
The proposal got little debate on Tuesday since it was one of many proposed amendments considered by the Senate as it moved toward finishing the highway bill.
Inhofe said the bill had not been analyzed by the congressional authorities to determine how much the tax breaks would cost the U.S. Treasury.
He said the proposed incentives for natural gas vehicles would come at “an enormous cost,'' possibly billions of dollars.
“The bottom line is that the promise of natural gas vehicles strong on its own — it does not need taxpayer subsidies to thrive,'' Inhofe said.
Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, the lead sponsor of a natural gas vehicle bill in the House, said the proposal was supported by a majority of senators and that he was disappointed the amendment
“Gas prices are on the rise with no relief in sight,” Sullivan said. “How many times does history have to repeat itself before Washington stops bickering and starts focusing on ending our $1
Wind tax credit fails
An extension of a longtime federal tax credit for wind energy production failed Tuesday in the U.S. Senate.
The amendment to a transportation funding bill failed to gain 60 votes for further action. The vote was 49-49, with Oklahoma's Republican senators, Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, voting against the amendment.
The measure would have extended a 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit for wind energy production that will expire Dec. 31. The credit dates to 1992.