The leaders of the four major natural gas associations Friday called on Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to include natural gas in any clean energy standard (CES) proposed by Congress.
The proposed CES, which is being floated by Sen. Lindsey Graham (D-SC) in climate change talks, would allow electricity providers to use natural gas, nuclear energy and coal with carbon capture and sequestration technology to produce a specified amount of power annually. The CES would be an alternative to the oft-mentioned renewable energy standard (RES), which would require power suppliers to exclusively use renewable fuels — solar, wind, biomass, geothermal energy and hydropower — to generate a certain percentage of electricity each year.
“Representing the broad spectrum of the natural gas industry, the members of the Natural Gas Council [NGC] urge you and your colleagues to include natural gas in any clean energy standard developed by Congress,” wrote the presidents of the Natural Gas Supply Association, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America and American Gas Association, all of which make up the NGC.
“We agree that natural gas will be essential to meeting the nation’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, and therefore, should a CES be adopted, it should be crafted so that utilities have the option of using natural gas to comply with the generation portfolio requirements,” they said.
“Bingaman’s a long-time supporter of natural gas. And while he’s an open-minded guy, he’s not considering a CES,” said Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker. Bingaman still supports the RES in the energy bill that was voted out of the Senate energy panel last June (see Daily GPI, June 18, 2009). The RES would require sellers of electricity to obtain 15% of their supplies each year from renewable energy resources or from energy efficiency improvements by 2021. Utilities that sell less than 4 million MWh/year would be exempt.
While not yet acknowledged by Congress and Obama administration officials, the gas association officials believe natural gas has major role to play in creating a clean environment. A recent report by the Congressional Research Service “suggested that simply by making full use of the [gas-fired] power plants that are already built and underutilized, significant emission reductions could be achieved. These reductions could be realized without major infrastructure additions, and without the development of new technologies or energy supplies,” they said.
Moreover, they pointed out that the prolific shale formations in more than 20 states have led to a 39% increase in natural gas supply. “This has transformed the ability of the industry to respond more rapidly, with more flexibility and on a larger scale than ever before, enabling greater use of this domestic energy resource.
“Assuming continued access to our vast resource base, natural gas can and should be used in the power sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and clean energy policies developed by Congress should employ natural gas as a solution. Energy and climate legislation has, to date, largely overlooked natural gas and its vital role. We hope you and your colleagues will include natural gas in a CES going forward,” the gas association officials said.
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