We present a transport model for molecular conduction involving an extended Huckel theoretical treatment of the molecular chemistry combined with a nonequilibrium Green's function treatment of quantum transport. The self-consistent potential is approximated by CNDO (complete neglect of differential overlap) method and the electrostatic effects of metallic leads (bias and image charges) are included through a three-dimensional finite element method. This allows us to capture spatial details of the electrostatic potential profile, including effects of charging, screening, and complicated electrode configurations employing only a single adjustable parameter to locate the Fermi energy. As this model is based on semiempirical methods it is computationally inexpensive and flexible compared to ab initio models, yet at the same time it is able to capture salient qualitative features as well as several relevant quantitative details of transport. We apply our model to investigate recent experimental data on alkane dithiol molecules obtained in a nanopore setup. We also present a comparison study of single molecule transistors and identify electronic properties that control their performance. (C) 2005 American Institute of Physics.