Pickens vs. Koch in Natural-Gas Feud


"Debate over the Natural Gas Act pits billionaires against one another."

Bloomberg, Jim Snyder

T. Boone Pickens, who's been saying for more than a year that Congress was poised to pass his plan to subsidize natural-gas vehicles, may not have been expecting opposition led by fellow billionaire Charles Koch.

The Pickens bill, dubbed the Nat Gas Act, would provide tax credits of as much as $64,000 for the purchase of natural gas long-haul trucks, and lesser amounts for lighter vehicles.

Pickens, 83, the chairman and chief executive officer of BP Capital LLC., a Dallas-based energy investment fund, has spent $82 million since July 2008 promoting the use of domestically produced natural gas.

Koch Industries Inc., Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) and the American Conservative Union all have weighed in since May against a Pickens-backed bill that would provide tax breaks to purchase natural-gas fueled trucks. The critics say it would provide unwarranted subsidies.

"We do not believe government should be picking 'winners and losers' in the marketplace," Phillip Ellender, president and COO for government and public affairs at Koch Companies said.

Charles Koch, 75, is chairman and chief executive officer of Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries, which calls itself one of the world's largest closely held companies. He is also a cofounder of Americans for Prosperity, a group that says it advocates limited government and opposes the natural-gas legislation.

The measure is still backed by 108 Democrats and 75 Republicans. That's more bipartisan support than for a proposal to expand offshore drilling that passed the House and failed in the Senate.

The fight over the Pickens plan underscores the obstacles energy measures involving subsidies or tax breaks face as Washington's political debate centers on how to reduce the federal deficit.

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