Our Horrifying Natural Gas Scenario

 | Mar 28, 2012 | 11:44 AM EDT
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The natural gas collapse is happening too fast.

It is now beginning to wreak havoc on the economy because there's such a dramatic ratcheting back of drilling at the same time that we haven't been able to harness the fuel in any way to bring down gasoline or compete against OPEC oil.

Sure, the EPA issued regulations that are absolutely pro natural gas when it comes to the building of new power plants. That's by default though, because coal is so terrible for the skies. The EPA is following a court mandate so it can be excused for its timing, even as it will most likely lead to a new step down in that industry's business. The coal industry doesn't hire a lot of people and a decline in coal of dramatic proportions as utilities switch to cheap natural gas isn't necessarily crushing to the U.S. economy. But unless we officially, as a nation, declare natural gas as THE bridge fuel and not just part of a solar wind mix, we will soon be causing an industry that's been responsible for a huge number of jobs to hit the wall.

I have long been a champion of this cleaner, abundant, cheap domestic fuel because it would allow us to smash OPEC and bring gasoline down WITHIN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. We know that trucks are responsible for 25% of the imported oil and it is turned into dirty diesel. We know that trains use a huge amount of natural gas.

We also know that there are natural gas truck engines that have a payback relatively quickly. But we do not have enough nat gas stations, even as Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE) is doing its best to provide them. We know that there's been no move by the federal government to say all federal trucks, including the post office, have to buy these trucks. There has been no support from ExxonMobil (XOM), the largest producer of natural gas, which wants it to be used exclusively by utilities, even as pretty much every utility that can switch has switched.

That means the fuel is not going to be adopted early enough to get the prices of gasoline down and to provide for domestic security against a supply interruption that could be caused by an Iran-Israel war. That's not farfetched. The New York Times reports that the leadership of Israel is in favor of such a strike to head off a second Holocaust.

So, we have the worst of all possible worlds.

We have sky-high oil prices that can hurt the American consumer with this endless climb in gasoline. We have an abundant fuel that is being ignored in Washington, so it is now causing layoffs. And we remain as energy dependent on our enemies like Venezuela and to the powder-keg countries in the Middle East as we have ever been.

Put simply, it's nuts. It makes no sense. But a combination of chemical company lobbyists, the green movement and a president that is on record as despising all fossil fuels has doomed the extended use of natural gas. It's a sad commentary about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change our nation's fortunes.


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