Emmett Tyrrell
WASHINGTON -- The other day, the estimable Wall Street Journal editorial board took issue with the equally estimable T. Boone Pickens, the legendary oilman, over the Nat Gas Act. The Journal argued with its customary lucidity that Pickens' idea of subsidizing natural gas, even for a short period, was ill-advised. To my mind, the Journal left one argument out, to wit: national security.

The Journal argued that natural gas could be supplied according to free-market practices, presenting clean and cheap energy even to those behemoth 18-wheel semis that carry their loads across America. It argued that talk of energy independence had led to numerous boondoggles for years. Ethanol had been tried for 30 years and cost $40 billion, and still is costing us. It argued that wind and solar had cost huge amounts and contributed mostly to boondoggles, or "Boone-Doggles," as it headlined its piece. It argued that no subsidies had been necessary for Henry Ford to build the first Model T, nor were subsidies necessary to put gas stations across America for servicing the Model Ts.

Yes, well, let's stop right there. America existed in the first part of the 20th century in an entirely different world than exists today. There were no terrorists capable of killing us. Oil came mostly from Texas or Oklahoma -- much friendlier and more stable places than the Middle East or Venezuela or Russia.

We now import some 70 percent of our oil. We are at the mercy of conditions that are usually out of our control. If we were to have natural gas fueling our 18-wheelers, we would be back in control. Actually, we could resume shipping energy abroad. In recent years, we have found natural gas in abundance right here in America. Through technological developments such as hydraulic fracturing, we have unlocked more energy than exists in all of Saudi Arabia. Let Iran or a gang of terrorists close down the Strait of Hormuz. We are still secure.

The Nat Gas Act now pending before Congress will extend and increase tax credits for natural gas and for fueling. The key clause calls for the orderly replacement of diesel-powered 18-wheeler semis and other heavy-duty vehicles with natural gas over a five- to seven-year period. It also gives tax incentives to truck stop owners to supply natural gas. That will amount to a savings of 2.5 million barrels of oil a day.


Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
 
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