Free

It gets easier being green at Clean Energy Fuels …

When your company is called Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CLNE), and you boast of being the “largest provider of natural gas for transportation in North America,” it helps if your top people aren’t just employees, but customers as well. And that gets so much easier if you give them a nice incentive to be customers.

For at least a couple years now, Clean Energy — founded by Texas-oilman-turned-green-energy-evangelist T. Boone Pickens — has lent its top executives natural-gas vehicles, and then plied them with free fuel to run them. The value of the car and the fuel has worked out to somewhere between $2,000 and $8,200 a year, per executive, since 2006.

To make things go even more smoothly, the company has even paid the taxes the execs owe for getting the free cars and fuel: another $1,600 to $6,000 per person, per year. (The figures only reflect the executives’ personal use of the vehicles.)

Then, this year, Clean Energy went one step further, according to the preliminary proxy it filed this week: It decided to just give the execs the cars outright, while continuing to fuel ’em up. Pricetag: $17,138 for CEO Andrew J. Littlefair, and between $9,702 and $21,630 for the other four top officers. They’re still getting taxes paid on the free fuel, a payment “intended to make our named executive officers whole for the taxes they must pay due to their receipt of the company-provided natural gas vehicle fuel.”

Of course, the federal government has its own modest efforts in place to encourage Americans to drive natural-gas and other less-polluting vehicles. But with perhaps a couple hundred-thousand natural-gas vehicles among the country’s 254 million or so highway-registered vehicles, maybe the Obama Administration could take a leaf from Clean Energy Fuels and just give them away.

Image source: Honda Civic GX Web site