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Lawmakers: National Security Depends on Natural Gas

Eight members of Congress have told President Obama that the United States' national security interests are dependent on natural gas, and urged the president to support efforts to expand exploration, development and production, especially through hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

In a letter dated June 27, the legislators -- four Democrats and four Republicans -- said they supported Obama's "call to get serious about a long-term policy for secure and affordable energy, [and] we urge you and members of your administration to take a leadership role in encouraging the continued development and utilization of our nation's vast natural gas resources by any means necessary, but most specifically, by unconventional shale gas recovery."

The signatories -- Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA), Michael Conaway (R-TX), Mark Critz (D-PA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Tom Reed (R-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) -- represent states with significant shale gas resources.

The lawmakers also serve on powerful national security committees. Thornberry serves as vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee, of which Conaway, Critz, Ryan and Shuster are also members. Conaway and Thornberry also serve together on the Permanent Select Intelligence Committee. Cuellar is on the Homeland Security Committee and Reed serves on the Judiciary Committee.

"While human rights and other strategic interests are often critical to any decision to deploy our military resources, dependence on energy resources outside our sphere of influence has been, and will continue to be, a central driver of our national security policy," the lawmakers said. "To end this dependence, we must utilize technology such as [fracking] which, as you pointed out in your speech, has given the country the opportunity to tap enormous reserves in the industrial heartland of our country."

That speech was a major energy policy address Obama delivered at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, on March 30 (see Shale Daily, March 31). The president spoke highly of natural gas and then directed his administration to form the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board's (SEAB) Natural Gas Subcommittee -- a panel of industry and environmental experts working with state and federal officials -- to study fracking safety and make recommendations (see Shale Daily, April 4).

While the lawmakers said the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa was worsening, they also said the U.S. should be wary that its allies -- namely Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria but also, to a lesser extent, Germany, France and Italy -- were dependent on Russia, "an unstable neighbor," for natural gas supplies. They applauded the State Department's efforts under the Global Shale Gas Initiative to assist allied countries in developing their own shale gas resources through fracking.

"While we are doing this important work abroad, it would be the height of contradiction to place unwarranted restrictions on both the locations and methods by which we attempt to recover our own 2,552 [Tcf] of natural gas in the United States," the legislators said. "We owe it to our citizens, and most importantly, our military, to be free of the constraints of having to fight abroad over resources that can be safely recovered here at home."

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