Another Reason the NAT GAS Act Should Never Be Passed

By rejecting both the Stabenow and Burr-Menendez-Reid amendments on Tuesday, the Senate sent a strong message to the American people: we will not be subsidizing new industries. With our national debt well on its way towards $16 trillion, nearly 20 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, four straight years of trillion dollar deficits, and no real solution to reduce those deficits, the federal government simply can’t afford to throw money around, especially at an industry that clearly does not need it.

There’s a larger problem with passing this legislation – and make no mistake, just because it was voted down this time, doesn’t mean it’s dead forever – and that is what it would mean for the future of subsidies. You see, the natural gas vehicle industry is moving along just fine; those in the industry say it’s moving without the subsidies, even supporters (like T. Boone Pickens) admit that it’ll proceed even without the subsidies. So why does Congress want to pass this subsidy so badly?

You could believe them when they say – as they do with every subsidy – that it would jumpstart a nascent industry. Or you could believe that, with all the failures of alternative energy subsidies to date (wind has received subsidies for 20 years, yet it only accounts for 2.3% of America’s electricity) the federal government would like to back a winner for once. The natural gas vehicle industry is moving along; Pennsylvania is creating jobs through natural gas extraction, Ford, GM and Chrysler are all releasing bi-fuel (natural gas and gasoline) versions of their popular pickup trucks, and private investors (such as Warren Buffett) are already investing in the industry.

The federal government just wants to claim part of this success. By “investing” in an already successful industry, Congress can claim success. That’s assuming the subsidies don’t impede the industry by turning it into yet another crony capitalism venture bent on more government handouts rather than actual innovation.

But let’s assume the industry continues to grow. Congress could then point to it as a subsidy success whenever another government handout is about to expire. Can our country afford to subsidize everything? The answer is no.

Heritage Action won’t take our eye off the ball. Conservatives must ensure this subsidy never sees the light of day, because it won’t help the industry, it will only create more corporate welfare and allow Congress to pretend that they were the ones that helped the natural gas vehicle industry, even though the industry is already succeeding.

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