Gas up, America

The natural gas report issued last week by an industry group highlights one reason why gas drilling in this area is stalling: The nation is awash in newly available natural-gas reserves.

But that is also great news for the country as a whole. We have an abundant, inexpensive and relatively clean source of energy within our own borders. We should be looking at ways to use more of that resource.

According to the report by the Potential Gas Committee, prepared with the assistance of the Colorado School of Mines, U.S. reserves of natural gas now stand at 2,074 trillion cubic feet, up 35 percent from the estimates of just two years ago.

Much of the increase comes from gas fields in places such as Texas, Pennsylvania and New York, where new technology is making it possible to economically recover the gas.

But the Rocky Mountain Region wasn’t left out in the boost in estimated reserves. In fact, estimated reserves in the Rockies grew by 60 percent over the two years.

Also, it’s important to note that technology put to the test in this region, such as directional drilling, is helping companies to reach gas in the new fields.

The problem for this region is that the gas is farther from major markets than many of the new gas fields, the cost of recovery is often greater and pipeline capacity is limited. The result is lower prices here than elsewhere.

Currently, the United States uses about 23 trillion cubic feet of gas each year. But that number could grow substantially if a few important things were done. We should push for construction of gas-fired electric plants and work to use compressed natural gas in vehicles — especially government fleets.

In April, Gov. Bill Ritter announced he was working with a company called Clean Energy on the possibility of seeking a federal grant to build six natural-gas fueling stations around the state, including one in Grand Junction. The stations would be primarily for buses, trash trucks and other large vehicles.

Since then, we have heard little about the undertaking. But we need more such efforts, and quickly, in Colorado and around the country. They will help us use our abundant natural gas and decrease our national addiction to foreign oil.

In December, when the average price of natural gas was about 50 percent higher than it is today, one analyst said gas could produce electricity cheaper than coal in many parts of the country, largely due to coal’s transportation costs.

Coal has historically been the cheapest fuel for electrical generation, and our coal resources are huge. We shouldn’t abandon coal. But it also has greater pollution problems than natural gas. And gas plants, which can be turned on and off relatively quickly compared to coal, work better as a backup to intermittent forms of clean power, such as wind and solar.

Those are just a couple ways this nation could take greater advantage of an important form of energy whose available resources are growing, not diminishing.


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