T. Boone Pickens is up to his rent-seeking mischief again. He's managed to capitalize on the green trend by advocating subsidies for his "green" projects. This includes a vast wind farm in Texas, which he's gone ahead with and now is lobbying to get the subsidies he needs for it to be profitable. Now he's up to it again in California, lobbying for the passage of Proposition 10 on the November ballot, which would grant $5 billion in subsidies for natural gas and alternative energy. Over half of the total would go to cars and trucks, and most of that would go to trucks and
Consumer Federation of California executive director Richard Holober said most hybrid vehicles, which run on either electricity or gasoline, would not qualify for rebates under Proposition 10 except for the Toyota Prius, which gets the unusually high 45 miles per gallon.
"That will get you a $2,000 rebate," Holober said at a recent legislative hearing on the ballot measure. "A natural gas Honda Civic which is purely natural gas-fueled gets you at least a $10,000 rebate, even though the state of California's website rates them as identical in clean air standards and the Prius is much more energy-efficient."
"Clearly this is an attempt to distort the market for one particular product," he said
So, despite the fact that there are few natural gas filling stations in California, backers (i.e., Pickens and two other natural gas business) defend the emphasis on non-gasoline vehicles by saying that cars that don't run on any gas deserve a special place, ostensibly so as to "foster independence from foreign oil." This might be a valid suggestion if America were narrowing in on energy independence and we needed to just close that 2% gap that all of our cars were still using, but that's not where America is: we can't even stop growing our oil needs. Considering the far superior mileage that more efficient traditional and hybrid cars get, it seems ridiculous to say that they aren't more deserving than natural gas vehicles. (Obviously, I don't think any of them are deserving of subsidies, though I'd say that there are much bigger and badder subsidies and regulations relating to transportation, land use, and energy in place that need to be tackled first.)