“You think you know me well/Well, you don’t know me.” – You Don’t Know Me by (“The Genius”) Ray Charles
At the American Gas Association (AGA), which represents the natural gas distribution segment of the natural gas industry, we know how Ray Charles felt because as omnipresent as our members are in Americans’ lives, most people don’t know us at all.
Part of the problem is our name. Many people hear “gas” association and automatically think of gasoline. Maybe some years back we should have changed our name to the American Natural Gas Association, and maybe someday in the future we will. But for now the best we can do is explain patiently that we represent natural gas utilities, which have nothing to do with gasoline or the oil that is refined into gasoline.
Another problem is that we are closely connected, at least in the public’s mind – and too often in Congress’ mind – with the energy producing segment of the industry, as in the “oil and gas” industry. It’s almost one word, the “oilandgas” industry, as if we were joined at the hip. That mistaken perception is certainly enhanced by the trade association that does represent the major energy producers, the American Petroleum Institute, or API, which has run a gazillion ads that state those ads are sponsored by “the people of America’s oil and natural gas industry.” Yes, the producers API represents produce natural gas as well as oil, but AGA does not represent the oil or natural gas producing community, which, in addition to API, is represented by several other producer-focused associations at the state and local level.
We represent that local natural gas utility down the street or across town – the one that delivers natural gas for home heating, water heating, cooking and other end-use applications to more than 70 million homes and businesses throughout the United States.
Why is clearing up this confusion about who we are so important to us? For one thing, when the price of energy, be it gasoline or natural gas, skyrockets, the media, the general public and, once again, members of Congress, assume our members are raking in the dough. Actually, by law, natural gas utilities can’t make one penny of profit on the natural gas commodity they deliver to customers – what they pay suppliers for natural gas is what they charge customers. So high prices hurt utilities as well as customers because more customers have trouble paying their energy bills.
Rather, our members make their money by charging a fee for the delivery, and maintenance, of the natural gas pipeline system in which they deliver natural gas to the customer. In that sense, we’re more like UPS or FedEx than API. Our members are delivery vehicles.
We are AGA. Every day, 70 million customers – which adds up to 171 million Americans – receive clean-burning natural gas safely and reliably from our 202 natural gas utility members. Hopefully, now you know us.