THE NATURAL GAS CRISIS:
GREENS ENGINEER ANOTHER DISASTER
By Alan Caruba
"We're not running out of natural gas, and we're not running out of places to look for natural gas," says Keith Rattie, President of Questar, an energy developer. "How- ever, we are running out of places we are allowed to look for gas."
Why do you think that is? Perhaps, it is the same reason that the Clinton-Gore ad- ministration put some of the richest supplies of high quality coal off limits to devel- opment and fought access to the oil reserves in Alaska. In the case of natural gas, the Bush administration's Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, will tell you that environmental restrictions have put nearly half of the huge natural gas reserves on federal lands off limits to use. When the laws concerning federal lands were first written, they included the sale of natural resources, since it was understood that natural resources were integral to the economy. Today, environmental laws forbid the sale of a great portion of the natural resources on federal lands. That's why thousands of acres of our national forests just burn to cinders every year.
Another invaluable instrument Greens use to deter access to natural gas is the En- dangered Species Act. It has been used in the past to decimate sectors of the timber, mining, and ranching industries. On December 16, 2002, the Forest Guardians, to- gether with the Chihauhuan Desert Conservation Alliance and the Texas Public Em- ployees for Environmental Responsibility, delivered notice to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it intended to sue in order to protect the "critical habitat" of the Aplomado Falcon. This bird's habitat extends from southern Arizona, throughout half of New Mexico, and into west and south Texas. If successful--and these suits have been successful in the past--it will shut down any drilling for natural gas and, of course, extraction of any other energy source. For a single species of falcon! At a time when this nation needs natural gas (and oil) now and will need more in the fu- ture!
So we have plenty of natural gas (as does Canada), but environmental laws have so slowed new domestic and offshore drilling for it that there's this little problem. Ac- cording to Andrew Weissman, Chairman of the Energy Ventures Group, there is "a staggering shortfall, with profound implications for energy companies and for the health of the U.S. economy." This shortfall is going to drive the price of natural gas through the roof, as if it hasn't already done so. It may force industries to shut down in order to insure homeowners and apartment dwellers do not freeze in the event of a long, cold winter.
"Further, this growing imbalance between available supplies of natural gas and ex- pected demand is not likely to be short-lived. Instead, it reflects the early stages of a long-term structural imbalance, in which supplies of natural gas available to the U.S. market are likely to consistently fall 10% or more below the levels achieved during the 1990's, at the same time that the underlying rate of demand is likely to continue to increase every year."
Supply and demand is the oldest rule of the marketplace, and energy experts are telling us we are just a few months away from a full-fledged disaster. Let's have a big round of applause for all the environmentalists, or Greens, who have engineered this. As if the U.S. government wasn't already broke, having spent its way through a huge surplus, we now are staring at a major crisis involving one of the most key elements of heating and energy for large sectors of the nation.
As Anne Keller, a senior consultant with Jacobs Consultancy, Inc., recently told other energy experts, "It seems that we are doomed to re-live the 1970's." She re- called for them that, in the 1950's, the U.S. Supreme Court imposed federal regu- lation over the price of natural gas sold into the interstate markets. When the oil prices spiked in the 1970's, thanks to our dear friends, the Saudis, the power indus- try began to switch heavily to "cheap" natural gas.
After the winter of 1977-1978, an especially cold one that saw curtailments of gas deliveries to schools and hospitals (but not inside states where gas prices had been deregulated), a whole new bunch of regulations were implemented to provide incen- tives to develop new gas as well as to restrict the use of gas as a fuel in power gen- eration, i.e., electricity. Ms. Keller notes that the natural gas market did enjoy a kind of golden age with "fairly stable prices at levels low enough to encourage in- dustrial development, and provide assurance that the (energy) industry could sup- port another round of gas-fired power plant development."
It will probably take another crisis to get the government to facilitate new natural gas development, the financing of new pipelines, and whatever else it will take to heat grandma's house. Right now, as this is being written, stored natural gas sup- plies are at the lowest level since the federal government started keeping records more than a quarter century ago. Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration is predicting that the demand for natural gas will increase by 50% over the next twenty years, but that domestic production will grow by only 14%, unless restrictions on public lands are ended.
In an article by James M. Taylor for Environment & Climate News, my friend Rob- ert Bradley, Jr., President of the Institute for Energy Research, Houston, Texas, was quoted, noting that "The first point is that natural gas reserves in both the U.S.A. and Canada are at all-time highs. Mother Nature is not to blame for high prices. Lagging infrastructure is at fault, from wellhead production to pipeline ca- pacity to move supply to markets." You don't build infrastructure when you have to battle endless environmental regulations and laws suits by environmental groups.
In plain words, this is a train wreck about to occur and a particularly bad winter will only worsen its impact on the U.S. economy. Without adequate energy resources, this nation will be in big trouble and a natural gas crisis will ripple through Wall Street and all other sectors of the economy.
While the Greens continue to tell you about how dangerous it is to breathe the air and drink the water, and how many endangered critters there are, your natural gas bill, if that's what you use to heat your home or business, is about to go through the ceiling into the stratosphere. You might want to hug an environmentalist to keep warm.
Alan Caruba is a veteran business and science writer, a Public Relations Counselor, Communications Director of the American Policy Center, and Founder of the Na- tional Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs," posted on the Inter- net website of the National Anxiety Center (www.anxietycenter.com). A compilation of his past columns, entitled Warning Signs, is published by Merril Press. In addi- tion to Warning Signs, Caruba is the author of A Pocket Guide to Militant Islam and The United Nations vs. the United States, both of which are available from the Na- tional Anxiety Center, 9 Brookside Road, Maplewood, New Jersey, 07040.
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