Independent oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens continued to voice his support for gas-friendly legislation Wednesday, telling members of the House Committee on Ways and Means that the NAT GAS Act (HR 1835), which seeks to establish a sustained market for natural gas vehicles (NGV) and rein in gas market volatility, would create 600,000 jobs and help wean the country off imported oil.

"Two-thirds of our foreign oil is used as a transportation fuel. Building more nuclear plants or more solar or wind farms will not make a dent in our dependence on foreign oil. The only way we can solve the OPEC oil threat is by replacing their expensive, dirty fuel with cleaner, cheaper, American natural gas," Pickens told lawmakers in Washington, DC. "Study after study shows we are awash in natural gas. We have well over a 200-year supply by current estimates. We're going to look like fools if we don't use it in transportation."

Pickens said foreign oil is responsible for approximately 75% of the U.S. trade deficit, including $27.5 billion of the $37.3 billion trade deficit racked up in January. Based on the price of oil in March, the country will spend $326.4 billion on oil in 2010, nearly 25% more than in 2009, he said.

"It's time to invest as much of that as we can back in America...and create American jobs, not OPEC jobs, and not jobs which can be offshored anywhere else," Pickens said.

The NAT GAS Act may become part of a comprehensive jobs package, according to Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK), co-chair of the House Natural Gas Caucus (see Daily GPI, Nov. 20, 2009). Pickens, who has pushed for Congress to create tax incentives for gas-fueled vehicles, recently said he thinks energy legislation, with a tilt to natural gas, could be enacted before Memorial Day (see Daily GPI, March 1).

Pickens also supports S 1408, which seeks to extend and expand federal tax credits for NGV and refueling infrastructure (see Daily GPI, Jan. 14; July 9, 2009).

Some auto and energy executives are less optimistic than Pickens about how big the market might become for natural gas as a transportation fuel (see Daily GPI, March 15). ExxonMobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson last month said natural gas "has a lot of limitations" as a transportation fuel (see Daily GPI, March 12). And the American Trucking Associations last year said natural gas is not a viable option for most long-haul operations (see Daily GPI, Nov. 19, 2009).

In 2008 Pickens unveiled an energy plan that he said could reduce America's dependence on foreign oil by more than one-third within 10 years by shifting the national energy mix toward domestic renewable sources and using more natural gas as a transportation fuel (see Daily GPI, July 9, 2008).

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