Time to Pass the Natural Gas Bill

Have you had enough of paying $4 a gallon for gas? Do you wonder what you're going to do if gas prices go to $5 a gallon this summer? You're not alone.

Gas prices affect everyone, regardless of race, color or political party, yet Washington is stuck in neutral in finding the solution, which is staring them straight in the face: natural gas.
It's time for U.S. to take responsibility and force Washington to act. Today, the natural gas bill, which would add about $3.4 billion in incentives to kick start the movement to natural gas as a transport fuel is expected to be voted down as an addition to the highway funding bill, the last reasonable moment in this election year in which this bill it has even the slightest chance of passage.

Take matters into your own hands. Call your congressman and demand that this bill be passed for the sake of jobs, the economy and your wallet.

It is at least politically clear why this bill is such a difficult one to get approved. Republican fiscal conservatives are opposed to new federal spending and are sensitive to oil interests in their home states. They view this bill as anti-free market, an example of government looking to "pick winners."

Democrats are opposed to any measure that would encourage environmentally sensitive hydraulic fracturing for natural gas from shale. Between the two, despite being a virtual no-brainer, two iterations of the original "Pickens" bill have failed and so likely will this latest rewritten 'Natural gas act.'

Why should it? Natural gas is greener than oil, plentiful, domestic and cheap. As gas prices today rose over $3.83 as a national average, the equivalent cost of a "gallon" of natural gas is $1.60. Most analysts expect domestic prices for natural gas to stay relatively low for years, perhaps decades to come, while oil price is at the whim of every Middle East conflict, emerging market competition for resources and decreasing global production.

The oil and gas industry is ready for this. Last week's CERA conference -- the yearly global energy get-together of all the majors -- could have easily been renamed the natural gas conference. Apache CEO Steve Farris claimed that U.S. supply of natural gas isn't the claimed 100 years, it is more like 200 years.

Shell CEO Peter Voser spoke about investment in a new U.S. gas-to-liquids plant and the prospects of LNG exports. At one point, moderator and energy guru Daniel Yergin interrupted Voser to ask sarcastically: "You still produce oil too, don't you?" The industry also indicated universally that they are willing to submit to any transparency request that environmentalists or Washington suggest in order to continue the U.S. shale revolution.

The industry is on board, it's time for the people to get on board, too. Let's call this grassroots effort the "energy independence coalition." Or, how about the "energy sanity group." That's the only way to describe what we're doing -- or actually not doing -- with our plentiful national resource of natural gas. We're flaring -- actually burning off natural gas instead of using it to get at more expensive oil resources in the Bakken and elsewhere. That's not sane -- it's just nuts.

Call your congressman. Push for passage of this bill, for the sake of your wallet and our economic recovery.