Ferguson’s Forecast: Senate Energy Committee Mulls Natural Gas

By Published On: January 22, 2005

On Monday, the U.S. Senate Energy Committee will hear proposals to deal with the ?predicted U.S. shortage of natural gas.? Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico), chair, will host 32 invited groups responding to six questions on expanding domestic supplies, liquefied natural gas, infrastructure, regulation, demand, and market information. The usual suspects received invitations?a variety of gas trade associations, consumer groups, regulators, and environmentalists. Sadly, the proposals were very predictable. The gas trade associations want fewer regulations and more money in the form of ?incentives.? Consumer groups want lower prices. Regulators want to regulate with no interference from other regulators. Environmentalists want more effort to reduce demand and continued protection of special places. So what else is new? Most interesting to me was the general consensus that depletion of North American gas resources makes it likely that domestic supplies will continue to decline. That underlying fact provided ample grist for gas producers to argue that they should have access to every last resource area on- or offshore. LNG developers use the decline in supplies to argue that the states have no business interfering with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission?s siting authority. FERC agrees, of course, while state regulators argue for a ?partnership? with FERC. Environmentalists point out that pillaging the land and sea won?t make much difference in supplies and argue for more efforts to reduce demand. Several parties paid lip service in filed testimony to reducing demand. Even the National Petroleum Council gets into this act. But the majority of the presentations urged the government to help suppliers. One might think that high prices and record earnings for energy companies would be help enough. Evidently not in America, home of the free enterprise system. Readers can find the proposals at <i>www.energy.senate.gov.</i>

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