The American Public Gas Association (APGA) Tuesday praised the efforts of the Midwest Attorneys General Natural Gas Working Group for its focus on natural gas markets in a report titled “The Role of Supply, Demand and Financial Commodity Markets in the Natural Gas Price Spiral” as it continued to argue that natural gas markets be scrutinized to determine whether they are subject to manipulation.

The report, authored by Mark Cooper, says that winter heating bills in the Midwest this winter are projected to be up by $250 per household, or 28%, compared to last winter. This is despite a 5% decline in consumption. “They are up over $600 compared to five years ago,” the report says.

“If we do not look behind the half-truth, half-hype smokescreen of the headlines, consumers will continue to pay a lot more for natural gas than they should,” the working group report continues. “The public discussion must be expanded to include the other factors that have been powering the upward ratchet of natural gas prices since the start of the 21st century. We must do this not simply because high prices are harmful but also because specific policy mistakes made in the past have helped to cause the current problems.”

“While increasing supply remains a fundamental component of the solution to bring natural gas prices back to an affordable level, there also needs to be greater focus on natural gas markets and how they function, particularly in terms of transparency,” said APGA CEO Bert Kalisch. “In order to instill consumer confidence in the market, it is critical that a level of transparency exist that demonstrates to consumers that market prices are not being manipulated.”

APGA said that the need for transparency is particularly acute in the over-the-counter (OTC) market “where traders are not required to disclose any information. Those charged with protecting the public interest must act in a manner that results in a level of transparency that readily and easily demonstrates to consumers that market prices are a result of appropriate market forces.”

The APGA has been a strong lobbyist for greater oversight of natural gas markets (see Daily GPI, Feb. 15).

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