- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Democrats are fond of playing the class-warfare card in calling for tax hikes on “millionaires and billionaires.” It’s their way of pretending to stand for the little guy. The latest actions in the Senate, however, show they stand more with the ultra-wealthy than with middle-class taxpayers.

Oil and gas tycoon T. Boone Pickens joins Democratic super donor George Soros in being among the biggest beneficiaries if Sen. Robert Menendez succeeds in attaching a measure known as the NAT GAS Act to the transportation bill now under consideration. The New Jersey Democrat’s proposal offers subsidies of up to $64,000 to buyers of vehicles powered by natural gas, up to $100,000 for corporate refueling stations and $200,000,000 for vehicle production.

Sounds like a winner if you’re in the natural gas business. Mr. Pickens founded what is now Clean Energy Fuels Corp., the largest provider of natural gas fuel for transportation in the North America. Mr. Soros invested a great deal of money in Westport Innovations, a company specializing in natural gas engines.

Unlike expensive wind and solar power boondoggles, natural gas is a “clean” power source that can make sense for certain operations. The cost of diesel fuel, for instance, has doubled in the past three years. By comparison, natural gas prices have fallen from their July 2008 peak of $13 per million BTU to $2.50 today. That competitive price point is all the incentive that the free market needs.

Washington politicians too often don’t trust the market and want to anoint the winners and losers. What that leads to is an economy where the most prosperous companies are not the ones that create the best products, but the ones with the best lobbying teams and the largest political donations.

The transportation bill’s prospects are murky. Wrangling in the House over spending levels and allocation of resources has created an impasse. As this hot potato is tossed around on Capitol Hill, the lawmakers need to ensure the final version recognizes that Mr. Pickens and Mr. Soros do not deserve special help for their business. They can do just fine without financial assistance from taxpayers.

The Washington Times