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ANGA: Natural Gas on Agenda for Lame Duck Congress

The election may have left the balance of power in Washington basically unchanged, but the lame duck Congress, which convened this week, may turn out to be not so lame, and the outlook for natural gas interests on Capitol Hill is good, according to Regina Hopper, CEO of America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA).

"Lame duck is called that for a reason; it's usually fairly lame, especially if you have the reelection of an incumbent," Hopper said at The Energy Exchange's North America Gas Summit in Washington, DC, Thursday. "It just so happens that this year there could be some real productive and meaningful legislation. I'm using the term broadly; 'agreements' is probably better terminology, coming out of Congress."

Voters elected President Obama to a second term in office and returned a Republican majority to the House and a Democratic majority to the Senate (see NGI, Nov. 12).

"It's been fascinating to watch the results of the election...[but] no matter how you cut the data, what we ended up with was what we basically started with," Hopper said. Voters sent a strong message that the economy, jobs and national security are important to them, and they expect lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to work together to address those issues. "It's what a lot of people call bipartisanship; it's what us in Washington call almost nearly impossible. But in fact, that's what they said."

During the lengthy campaign season, both candidates for president talked about the importance of the development of domestic energy sources, she said.

"If the one issue after the election was bipartisanship, I think that probably one of the most interesting issues that can form that bipartisanship with regard to moving us forward are the attributes of natural gas: it's a domestic product that can help the environment, that can create jobs and that can drive economic stimulus."

But while Obama and Republican Mitt Romney repeatedly clashed over energy issues during the campaign (see NGI, Oct. 22; Oct. 5), polling data indicates that energy wasn't a top priority for many voters, according to Paul Hagemeier, vice president of regulatory compliance at Chesapeake Energy Corp.

"Energy will continue to be a center of debate, but one of the interesting things I've heard this last week is that as people were exiting the voting booth, the major issues that they voted on did not include energy," Hagemeier said at the North America Gas Summit. "I know the President and Gov. Romney both mentioned energy in their speeches, and natural gas specifically, but as people came out of the voting booth and presented what really kind of drove their decisions, natural gas and energy were not part of their decision-making."

Technology breakthroughs have created "a changed energy game," according to Hopper. Some analysts believe the United States will be a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 and a net oil exporter by 2035 (see related story).

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