The natural gas industry has to mount a "relentless campaign" that demonstrates to the stakeholders that "gas is good, gas is good, gas is good," American Gas Association Chairman Robert C. Skaggs Jr. said last week.
Skaggs, who also is CEO of NiSource Inc., was a keynote speaker at the World Shale Gas Conference & Exhibition in Grapevine, TX. It is up to the gas industry, he said, to promote gas use and to demonstrate how shale gas is securing America's energy future.
"At a gathering of Marcellus producers a few weeks ago, we talked about how shale truly is a gamechanger, a revolution, that presents all of us with staggering potential and an opportunity that cannot be squandered," he told the audience. "We cannot allow this to be squandered. We cannot let this go through our hands."
Skaggs offered "no panaceas, no silver bullets" for the gas industry. Instead, he suggested that shale producers try "a dose of common sense and a practical approach to deal with externalities," such as regulatory and political forces that have hindered exploration and production in some parts of the country. What the industry needs most, said the AGA chief, is a simple message.
"'Gas is good' sounds a bit trite, a bit trivial, but we need a simple, straightforward message...We provide a significant part of the solution to all of our country's economic needs and desires."
The convoluted messages about how shale gas can transform the domestic supply picture have "not resonated with all stakeholders," said Skaggs. "Domestically, and dare I say globally, regulators and administrators take gas for granted. Gas has been described as a bridge fuel, a transition fuel. I would suggest that nothing is further from the truth on that point. I would also suggest that many interests are assaulting natural gas, assaulting shale gas.
"My point of view is we need to be on the offensive. We need to launch a relentless campaign to demonstrate and reiterate that gas is good, gas is good, gas is good."
Opponents of gas exploration and production "are mobilized. We must respond in a thoughtful, reasonable way. We have to be united, and we have to be relentless in communicating our message." The gas industry needs to stress that because of shale gas, "supply concerns in the United States are largely off the table. Gas can be produced economically, prices can be managed, and it should be produced. It has transformed the supply picture."
Skaggs acknowledged that getting the "good gas" message out is partly out of industry's hands. In that regard, the AGA has been urging policymakers and regulators to take a "common sense approach to legislation and regulation...We don't need complicated architecture to deal with natural gas. We need a simple, common sense approach that promotes, not inhibits, the use of natural gas...Gas use ought to be ubiquitous..."
The AGA doesn't want to only change minds. It also wants to change the definition of what has forever been considered "conventional" gas.
"Shale gas has gone from being nonconventional to becoming a conventional, mainstream source of energy," said Skaggs. With shale basins in key regions across the country, the benefits are in their "location, location, location..."
He urged the industry to "stand as one...Our offense should be built around the theme that gas is good, that shale gas production is good...and target all levels of government and regulators, at the local level, regional, national and yes, international."