Author Archives: Bruce Kauffmann

Bruce Kauffmann A Road to Energy Security

The cover story for the Aug./Sept, issue of American Gas magazine, “Is Now the Time for NGVs?,” makes a very persuasive case on behalf of what we at AGA think is one of the most promising new markets for natural gas—the transportation market.   Simply put, replacing petroleum-powered vehicles with increasing numbers of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) on America’s roads will save America and American motorists money, it will help create more domestic jobs, and it will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we put into the air.

And by the way, it will help enhance America’s energy security and, by extension, our national security.

Start with saving motorists money.  Due to the vast amount of natural gas from shale that has been entering the domestic energy market over the past few years, natural gas is now both plentiful and competitively priced, especially compared with gasoline.  In fact, on a gallon-equivalent basis, natural costs approximately $1.50 less than gasoline.

As for saving our country money, the more dollars spent producing and using domestic natural gas, the less we spend on imports of foreign oil, which currently amounts to a staggering $1 billion per day.  Likewise, the more dollars that are spent developing the domestic natural gas industry, the more domestic jobs we create in that industry.

And of course, the more we drive cars powered by environmentally friendly natural gas the cleaner our environment.  Replacing an older, gas-powered vehicle with a newer NGV can reduce NOx emissions by 75-95 percent and CO2 emissions by 20-20 percent.

As for enhancing our energy security, it is well known that America is overly dependent on oil imports from nations that are, to varying degrees, corrupt, authoritarian, unstable, and have little or no sympathy for America’s values or national interests.  That threatens both our energy security and our national security.

So imagine if we were able to displace significant amounts of this imported oil—90 percent of which is used in the transportation market—with natural gas.  The way to achieve that goal is to put more NGVs on the road.

Of course there are challenges, including producing NGVs in numbers that will make their initial cost more comparable to the cost of gas-powered vehicles, while simultaneously developing a nationwide re-fueling infrastructure.   Meeting these challenges will involve a significant financial investment, an industry-wide commitment and, at least initially, some measure of government support.   But as this month’s cover story suggests, and as accompanying articles by Rich Kolodziej of NGV America and Kathryn Clay of the new Drive Natural Gas Initiative clearly reinforce, the economic argument for NGVs is compelling, the environmental benefits are substantial, the energy security argument is undeniable, and the technology to cost-effectively produce both NGVs and a nationwide NGV re-fueling infrastructure is advancing rapidly.

In other words, to the question “Is Now the Time for NGVs?” the answer is yes.

Posted in Natural Gas | Tagged | Comments Off on A Road to Energy Security

Bruce Kauffmann Technology Marches On

The cover story for the July issue of American Gas magazine, titled “Integrity Management Fuels Innovation,” outlines the many new technologies and technological procedures that are helping natural gas utilities improve the safety and reliability of their operations systems.   Today these technological advances are spurred by the industry-wide distribution integrity management programs that are now being put in place, but natural gas research and development programs have long been in place, and over the years they have created such new products and services as smart pigs, robotics, indirect inspections, record mapping and much more.

And research and development organizations such as the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), NYSEARCH and the Pipeline Research Council (PRCI) have long been in the business of identifying, supporting and developing new technologies—and at AGA we have been working closely with these groups for just as long.   That is one reason we welcomed the opportunity to let these research groups share some of the promising new products and procedures that they are working to develop and bring to market.

Which they have done in the pages of this month’s issue, so if you aren’t excited about better ways to perform “low-drag magnetic flux leakage testing” on pipeline, or new ways to predict “microbially induced corrosion,” or a new video surveillance camera that can remotely monitor “hot-spot portions of pipeline rights-of-way that have been identified as being especially vulnerable to outside-force damage,” well then, my friends, you need to re-examine your priorities.

In all seriousness, the foundation of everything our industry does is our reputation for the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to the 175 million Americans who depend on it every single day.   Ensuring that safety and reliability is a formidable challenge, but one that we have always met, and one that we will continue to meet with the invaluable help of new technologies, products and services, and thanks to the outstanding technology research and development organizations—GTI, NYSEARCH and PRCI to name just three—that make them possible.

Posted in energy | Tagged | 2 Comments

Bruce Kauffmann A Talk with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

The cover story for the June issue of American Gas magazine, titled “Safe & Sound,” is actually an interview with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, among whose many responsibilities is partnering with the natural gas industry to ensure that our natural gas pipeline delivery system, which is the safest energy delivery system in America, becomes even safer.

As far back as February of this year Secretary LaHood had visited AGA’s headquarter in order to talk with our board of directors about how, together, we can improve pipeline safety.  As he said to our board, a first step is to improve communication among all of the pipeline safety stakeholders, which is why in April he hosted the first-ever Pipeline Safety Forum, whose goal was to determine the best methods to “rehabilitate, repair and, where necessary, replace critical pipeline infrastructure”—all to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to the 175 million Americans who depend on it every day.

As Secretary LaHood notes in our interview with him, the Pipeline Safety Forum was an excellent first step, but only a first step in enhancing pipeline safety, while also making sure that all stakeholders, including natural gas customers, are aware of the individual actions they can take to improve the safety of the pipeline system.  To give just one example, the number-one cause of pipeline incidents is damage done to pipelines by outside excavators, including folks digging or planting in their own back yards, who are unaware that underground pipe lies beneath them.  A simple call to the “Call Before You Dig” safety hotline—just dial 811 anywhere in the country—and you will be alerted to the location of underground pipe and/or wire in your digging area.

As the interview makes clear, Secretary LaHood is a firm believer in interaction, communication and collaboration. “I know that each time we bring people together we learn more,” he says.

By reading this interview, you too can learn more about Secretary LaHood’s views on pipeline safety and how the U.S. Department of Transportation, the natural gas industry and our many other involved stakeholders, both nationally and in each of our 50 states, can more effectively work together to improve it.

Posted in energy, people | Comments Off on A Talk with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Bruce Kauffmann Your Friendly Neighborhood Natural Gas Utility

The cover story for the May issue of American Gas magazine, titled “Fueling America,” and AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy’s president’s message in that issue both talk about how little understood is the role that local natural gas utilities play in the local communities in which they operate.

Yes, those local utilities deliver clean, reliable natural gas to the homes, businesses and industries in cities and towns across America, but they also are connected to their customers in ways that go far beyond their natural gas pipe in the ground.

They also are connected by the significant economic impact they have on their local communities.  A recent study says that America’s natural gas industry is responsible for 2.8 million American jobs, of which more than 600,000 are the direct result of finding, producing and delivering natural gas to customers.  In addition, more than 700,000 jobs are the indirect result of our industry—that is, these jobs are created by companies that sell products and services to the natural gas industry.   And finally, 1.5 million American jobs are the result of the consumer spending done by the workers in those direct and indirect natural gas industry jobs—what is sometimes called the “induced result” of our industry.

All total, according to the study, 31 states have at least 10,000 jobs related to the natural gas industry, which is a significant economic impact that is felt in communities around the nation.

Local natural gas utilities also are connected to their communities by the civic pride and local commitment so proudly exhibited by their employees.  Nationwide natural gas utilities, driven by the charitable giving of their employees, contribute nearly $3 billion to energy assistance programs for low-income families struggling to pay their energy bills.  These utility employees are also leaders in charitable giving and corporate philanthropy, donating money to help their communities in everything from education, to local business development to making sure less fortunate children have a present to open on Christmas day.

And finally, natural gas utilities and their employees work with local business and political leaders to attract new businesses to their communities, thereby increasing local jobs and local tax revenues, while also increasing the number of natural gas utility customers.

In sum the local natural gas utility and its employees know that being a good neighbor and friend is good for the soul as well as good for business.  As AGA President McCurdy puts it in his president’s message, “The more thriving and vital the community is, the more thriving and vital its natural gas utility is—and vice versa.”

Posted in energy, Natural Gas, people | Tagged | Comments Off on Your Friendly Neighborhood Natural Gas Utility