Pickens: Energy Bill Should Speed Usage of Alternative Fuels
Smith, Jack Z., THE JOURNAL RECORD
FORT WORTH _ The embryonic industry for natural gaswered vehicles has been put "on a fast track" by the sweeping energy bill passed by Congress last week, according to Dallas oilman T. Boone Pickens.
Energy Secretary James Watkins, in Fort Worth Tuesday to visit a company formed by Pickens to convert vehicles to burn natural gas, forecast that the National Energy Policy Act will help trigger "an exponential increase in natural gas utilization."
Pickens led Watkins on a tour of Mesa Environmental, a 47-employee company that launched operations in April at a cavernous warehouse in south Fort Worth.
Mesa Environmental is a subsidiary of Mesa Inc., a Dallassed oil and natural gas producer headed by Pickens.
The National Energy Policy Act in some cases mandates, and in other instances strongly encourages, the expanded use of alternative fuels such as natural gas.
Proponents of natural gas tout it as a cheap, cleanrning and domestically abundant fuel that could significantly reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil.
The energy bill, which Watkins said President Bush soon will sign into law, provides that federal and state governments must convert threearters of their fleets of vehicles to alternative fuels by the end of the decade.
It also states that 70 percent of private and municipal fleets must run on alternative fuels by 2006.
Pickens said the bill also provides a $2,000 tax deduction for persons who purchase vehicles that burn natural gas and a $200,000 tax deduction for companies that build natural gas fueling stations.
The energy bill also provides greater financial incentives for expanded use of mass transit. That could encourage increased use of natural gas, since many municipal bus systems are converting portions of their fleets to burn the fuel.
Pickens is chairman of the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, a consortium of natural gas producers, pipeline companies, utilities, automakers, equipment manufacturers and other companies attempting to expand the market for natural gas vehicles.
Pickens, who estimates there are now 50,000 natural gas powered vehicles in the United States, forecasts that number will quadruple to 200,000 vehicles by the end of 1994.
In the same time frame, the number of natural gas fueling stations will jump sixfold, from 500 to 3,000, he forecasts.
But he saves his boldest forecast for the year 2000, prophesying that by the end of the decade there will be 20 million natural gas vehicles in the United States, representing roughly 10 percent of all vehicles on the road.
"This isn't just pie-iney, silly talk," he said. "It can be done."
As an example of the progress being made, Pickens said Mesa Environmental hopes to win approval within 60 days of a modestzed pilot program in heavily polluted Mexico City to convert vehicles to burn natural gas. …