Thursday, September 17, 2009

Natural Gas Leaders Stepping up Lobbying Efforts

While I'm not fan of corporations gaining influence in Washington, I do believe natural gas has a great future in our energy plan. Anyway, here's an article I spotted about the natural gas leaders trying to increase demand and shine the light on Washington and what they give to the coal industry:

Chesapeake Energy Corp. and other natural-gas producers, unhappy with climate-change legislation they say favors competing fuels such as coal, are teaming up to tout the benefits of their product to lawmakers in Washington.

Chesapeake, Noble Energy Inc. and Apache Corp. are among 28 companies that in March formed America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a Washington-based group aimed at increasing “appreciation” for natural gas. Members of the alliance met with reporters today in Washington.

The alliance has “one mission: to try and generate more natural gas demand,” Aubrey McClendon, chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake, which operates the largest number of gas rigs in the U.S., said yesterday.

That goal may be stymied by climate-change legislation approved by the House in June, which requires capping carbon dioxide emissions and allocates a certain amount of pollution permits to industries for free. Gas utilities would get 9 percent of the allowances under the proposal from Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts. The Senate has yet to vote on the legislation.

“We did not have an active role in climate-change legislation in the House,” David Trice, chairman of Newfield Exploration Co. and chairman of the alliance, said of its member companies at the press briefing today in Washington. “We will correct that in the Senate.”

Natural gas produces about 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal when burned as a power source. Under most energy-use scenarios by the government’s Energy Information Administration, gas use would be flat or decline under the Waxman-Markey plan, Jim Hackett, CEO of Anardarko Petroleum Corp., said at today’s event.

‘Hall Pass’

The Waxman-Markey legislation’s distribution of allowances “basically gives the coal industry a hall pass for up to two years, and we think that’s not fair and we’re confident that it’s not going to lower CO2 emissions,” McClendon said in a speech yesterday in Washington at an event sponsored by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

“My job is to make sure that policy makers and politicians are aware of the abundance of natural gas and the options that gives them, particularly senators, to take another look at Waxman-Markey,” he said.

Natural gas prices have fallen 35 percent since the start of the year. Natural gas for October delivery fell 11 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $3.65 per million British thermal units at 11:49 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The U.S. consumes 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. Gas at $3 per million cubic feet is the energy equivalent of oil at $21 a barrel, McClendon said.

New Markets

If companies can convince owners of coal-fired power plants to switch to gas, and if they can create more natural gas-fueled transportation, there is a potential market for an additional 125 bcf of gas in the U.S., McClendon said.

An industry group in June reported that the U.S. has an estimated 1,836 trillion cubic feet of potential natural gas, the highest recorded level. About a third of reserves reflects potential gas in shale-rock formations.

More gas production from “abundant” shale will help reduce volatility of prices, in part because the onshore facilities aren’t susceptible to hurricanes as are rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, said Hackett.

Environmentalists and some members of Congress have raised concerns about shale gas and the potential effect the process of breaking up the rock may have on water supplies.

‘Crack Cocaine’

Natural gas has been “the crack cocaine” of the electricity industry for the last 15 years, Jim Rogers, CEO of utility Duke Energy Corp., said during a speech in Washington yesterday.

“Every time we need power, we build a natural gas plant, not a coal plant, not a nuclear plant,” said Rogers.

McClendon said the industry hasn’t been a good salesman in the past.

“We’ve always felt like we produced a superior product and that it would sell itself,” said McClendon.

Before, the view was that the “fellows that were producing an inferior fuel had to do all the lobbying, had to do all the hard work to make sure their fuel got burned,” said McClendon. “The world’s changed.”

“We now realize our fuel can meet a lot more demand than it has historically and we have to overcome the view that natural gas is scarce or that its price is volatile.”

Chuck Davidson, CEO of Houston-based Noble, said that approach marks a big change in the industry.

“It’s a paradigm shift for a producer to really shift over and think about how to market your product,” he said yesterday at the Johns Hopkins event.

I'm still keeping an eye out for good natural gas investments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a well written article on an opportunity in Natural Gas: