Read my latest response on the National Journal’s Energy and Environment Experts blog to the question, “Can Obama Find Common Ground in Energy?”
America’s natural gas utilities agree with President Obama that natural gas represents an opportunity for common ground between Republicans and Democrats.
We have long argued that one of the best ways to grow American jobs, combat the effects of climate change and provide for the energy security of our country is to use the tools, technologies and resources already available. Natural gas is clearly one of those tools. It is abundant, affordable, domestic and the cleanest fossil fuel. It’s ready – right here, right now.
There are a number of steps the administration and Congress can take to move forward on this important issue, the first of which is to increase U.S. production of natural gas. Increased production is critical to America’s energy future; we need federal and state policies in place to permit environmentally responsible natural gas production and infrastructure development.
Natural gas should also be a central part of any energy policy that the 112th Congress considers. If Congress moves forward on a renewable or clean electricity standard, natural gas generation should be included as a compliance option.
America’s natural gas utilities and their customers have long led the way in reducing carbon emissions. While the number of residential households using natural gas increased from 38 million in 1970 to nearly 65 million today — an increase of more than 70 percent — overall residential consumption over that time has remained essentially flat. That is because residential natural gas users have cut their natural gas use, per household, by about 40 percent.
This decline in residential gas usage per household is due to better insulated homes, more efficient appliances and conservation/efficiency programs that are supported by natural gas utilities. Future policies should take these facts into consideration when developing goals to increase the efficiency of buildings and appliances, and reduce vehicle emissions.
Natural gas contributes to America’s economy too, from the hundreds of thousands of jobs held by those who work for local utilities or in America’s manufacturing industry, to those who are responsible for finding it and bringing it to market, to those who ensure the infrastructure is in place to make it all happen. Utilities also contribute significant revenue to local tax bases and provide historically solid dividend income to shareholders, who are often customers of the local utility in which they invest.
Whatever approach the president or Congress takes to address our country’s mounting energy issues, natural gas clearly must have a seat at the table.