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.
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