By Ben Geman - 05/27/11 05:23 PM EDT
Billionaire energy magnate T. Boone Pickens slammed Koch Industries on Friday for its opposition to legislation he’s promoting that provides tax credits to jumpstart use of natural gas in the trucking industry.
“They don't ever come toe-to-toe. They don’t get up and discuss these issues or anything. They are very mysterious,” Pickens said on CNBC.
Koch — which is helmed by billionaire brothers active in conservative causes — is opposing the natural-gas legislation alongside an array of right-leaning groups, including the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, and the Club for Growth. They allege it represents undue government meddling in energy markets.
Informed that Charles Koch had declined the network’s invitation to appear, Pickens replied, “They won’t come on. They just send a statement is all they do.”
The bill would provide billions of dollars worth of tax credits and other provisions to spur transition to natural gas-powered vehicles, which Pickens and other backers call a vital way to curb reliance on oil imports.
But in a statement earlier this month against the bill, an executive with Kansas-based Koch Industries, which is active in refining, polymers and other sectors, said the company has “consistently opposed subsidies that distort markets.”
“We maintain that the marketplace, while not perfect, is the best mechanism for allocating resources to consumers. People deciding what fuels to purchase, instead of the government, is best for consumers and our country,” said Richard Fink, executive vice president for the company. He said that Koch does not question Pickens' "intentions or integrity," but added:
"We believe history has demonstrated over and over that these subsidies end up undermining the long-term prosperity of the country. For these principled reasons, we oppose this bill (HR 1380) to give tax incentives to buyers and makers of natural gas-powered vehicles and related infrastructure."
But Pickens noted the company benefits from subsidies that bolster the ethanol industry and more broadly defended the bipartisan legislation, which was introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and has over 180 co-sponsors.
“I am trying to get away from the terrorists. I think that the money that we pay to OPEC, it gets in the hands of the Taliban,” Pickens said, calling use of domestic natural gas a viable alternative.
He also noted that the bill would provide the tax credits for a limited number of years, unlike longstanding ethanol tax subsidies.
“I just want the 18-wheelers and with those I can cut OPEC in half, and my help from the government [is] a five year and out,” Pickens said.
The interview comes a day after a pair of Republicans dropped their support for the legislation, joining two others who abandoned it earlier in the month. But the bill is attracting new co-sponsors too.
Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) signed onto the bill Thursday, and Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) signed on earlier in the week.