Offering high hopes but no consensus on a strategy, the latest report from the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) calls natural gas a potential U.S. energy solution, although it hastened to point out that opinions still vary widely on how to make that happen.

"Before our nation is the opportunity of a lifetime -- a century's worth of affordable, clean fuel right here at home," said COGA CEO Tisha Conoly Schuller. The report, "Natural Gas 360: Advancing America's Energy Solution," was released by COGA Friday.

An eclectic group of authors, including industry executives, environmentalists, and public-sector professionals, provided diverse views on the nation's energy future with each including a key role for gas. Former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth called gas a "game-changer," while environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said it is an important weapon in what he sees as a war against the added use of coal. Others see the fuel as leading the way to more clean fuel transportation.

"At some very basic level we know energy is fundamental to physical existence -- as important as clean air, water and food," according to Anadarko Petroleum CEO James Hackett. "An added benefit here is that U.S. natural gas production creates jobs, revenue and economic activity."

In their separate writings, Hackett chides Colorado for still having up to 60% of its electricity supplies come from coal-fired generation plants, while Kennedy called natural gas the "bridge between the environment and the new energy economy" that he thinks must keep the use of coal-fired generation out of the mix.

Kennedy and Colorado Director of Environmental Programs Martha Rudolph touted the state's Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act as serving as a model for other states and ultimately for Congress when it gets around to reauthorizing the federal Clean Air Act. "It's imperative the natural gas industry steps up and speaks with a strong, unified voice on this issue because the coal industry is currently winning the battle on Capitol Hill," Kennedy said.

In addition to the industry's initiative, some of the report deals with the need for public-sector policymakers to further embrace natural gas and to see it as a complement to renewable energy, not a competitor.

Don McClure, vice president for finance and business services at EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc., urged producers to look at long-term gas prices, which are projected by some sources to stay between $4 and $6; focus more on demand; manage supply costs more tightly; and swing back toward more long-term contracts to satisfy utilities that increasingly are looking for more price stability.

"Producers should view these recommendations as 'considerations' -- not commandments," said McClure, noting there is heightened interest in what he called a "rapidly evolving" natural gas market, given the shale gas gold rush.

Noting in the report that the industry and public policymakers "can do better," Anadarko's Marketing Vice President Scott Moore urged that gas not be pitted against renewables, but rather be used in tandem. "We don't need a rivalry between [the two], and we already have a model in place in Colorado that shows us how to end this unconstructive and unproductive jostling for position," Moore said.

Ultimately, compromises need to be made as the power industry works with gas providers to reduce generation plant emissions, Moore said. Part of that solution has to include the deployment of more natural gas, he said.

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