Billionaires look to Obama for more taxpayer cash

Chris Moody Contributor
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It should come as little surprise that when President Obama announced plans to give away billions of dollars to alternative energy companies, the lobbyists came running toward Washington.

Billionaire entrepreneurs T. Boone Pickens and Ted Turner were just the latest to make the trip. The duo delivered a joint talk in the capital city Tuesday about their alternative energy investments, and both made it clear they were there looking for handouts.

For the past three years, legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens has crossed the country selling a plan to eliminate America’s reliance on foreign energy sources through domestic natural gas production and wind energy.

He just needs $5 billion of your dollars to do it.

“This is all the help I want. I want a billion dollars a year for five years and then kill it,” Pickens said, describing the amount of public money he’ll need through tax credits to get his plan off the ground. “Five billion dollars.”

With President Obama in office, Pickens said he felt more confident than ever that he could finally get it.

At this year’s State of the Union Address in February, the president called for an increase in public funding to companies that invest in “green energy” sources and that was all Pickens needed to hear.

“Just give me the money to get it started,” he said at the Tuesday luncheon. “Give us the direction, Mr. President and we’ll go in that direction because we are patriotic and we’re not stupid.”

More specifically, Pickens is busy lobbying for a bill — HR 1380 — which is currently sitting in committee and if passed would provide the billions he’s requesting. Sponsored by Oklahoma Republican Rep. John Sullivan, the legislation would change the Internal Revenue Code to give tax credits to entrepreneurs like Pickens who invest in the renewable energy business.

“When I pass HR 1380 I’ll feel like I got my money’s worth,” he said of the time and money he’s already put into natural gas.

But Pickens isn’t the only one looking for taxpayer help to support his investments. Ted Turner, the media mogul and owner of literally more land than anyone in America, was just as blunt about his ambitions. Turner recently invested millions in the solar power business, and wants to see some dough from Uncle Sam too.

“There does need to be some subsidies,” Turner said when asked if he could launch his projects with just private capital.  “Right now we’re subsidizing coal and oil big time. Wind and solar and geothermal are not being subsidized because they were not here to get in line and get their spot at the feed troth.”

Turner has a point. Oil companies rely on massive tax breaks, write-offs and credits in the tax code that amount to as much as $4 billion a year. To him, it’s only fair that he get some of that too.

With Obama’s continued support of taxpayer spending on alternative energy combined with a bipartisan push for an energy bill and $5 dollar a gallon gasoline, there’s a good chance they’ll get what they came for.


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