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Commerce to Examine Impact of High Gas Prices on Manufacturers

The Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) is taking comments on the impact that recent natural gas price increases (2000 through present) have had and will have on U.S. manufacturing industries. The ESA said in a Federal Register notice on Monday that its inquiry is designed to provide information for a report to Congress that will be done in cooperation with Energy and Labor departments.

The Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA), which represents a number of large industrial companies, has said that the U.S. "natural gas crisis" has already cost U.S. consumers $200 billion and has contributed to the loss of 2.5 million manufacturing jobs. Its methodology for arriving at that $200 billion figure is to multiply total domestic consumption by the amount that gas prices at the Henry Hub have risen since 2000.

Last summer Congress ordered the Commerce Department to undertake a detailed study of the economic impact of natural gas prices on energy-intensive industries in the U.S. and potential market adjustments, including shifting industries overseas. Industries to be examined include chemicals, nitrogenous fertilizer manufacturing, paper, glass and plastics. Information on industry impacts include the following areas: employment, production and prices; investment decisions and capital expenditures; export markets and competition from imports; and the possibility of use of alternative fuel and/or feedstock choices.

Comments must be received by May 16. The ESA said it will display the public comments on its website at http://www.esa.doc.gov/ng. Comments can be submitted by any of the following methods: email to david.henry@esa.doc.gov with "Natural Gas Price Impacts on Industry" in the subject line; fax to (202) 482-0325 (Attn: David Henry); mail to David Henry, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Office of Policy Development,14th Street & Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 4875, Washington, DC 20230.

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