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Thursday, June 27, 2013
Appalachian Power’s plan to convert a coal-fired power plant to natural gas is an important sign of the times. With America’s new abundance of affordable natural gas combined with stricter environmental regulations, the Russell County plant’s conversion is a wise decision.
Although coal traditionally has been the cheapest fuel for electricity generation, the price of natural gas has fallen well below the 2008 high of nearly $14 per thousand cubic feet for industrial customers. For the week ending June 5, the spot price for natural gas was just below $4.
Why has gas declined in price? Simply put, technology. Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing are unlocking natural gas and oil from shale formations that previously were too difficult and too expensive to produce.
These technologies have led to a resurgence of U.S. oil and natural gas production. Government figures show the United States produced 32,000 more barrels of oil a day than it imported May 24-31, marking the first time since January 1997 that U.S. oil production outpaced imports. For natural gas, the story is the same. U.S. production continues to climb while imports fall.
But now is not the time to assume we are energy self-sufficient and rest on our laurels. Those of us who experienced the high natural gas prices and the long gasoline lines in the mid-1970s remember the high cost of heating and cooling our homes and the frustrating searches for fuel to drive to work.
Energy disruptions caused by political instability abroad, bad weather and government policies are still possible.
What we need now is an insurance policy per se that protects our standard-of-living and our economy. We need the Keystone XL pipeline to transport an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada and the Bakken shale formation in the upper Midwest to Gulf Coast refineries. By ensuring a steady and reliable supply from additional North American oil fields, the United States could greatly improve its long-term energy and national security.
It’s clear that the Obama administration does not agree. For nearly five years, it has delayed the pipeline’s approval. The project has been studied and restudied numerous times, and the State Department recently acknowledged that there is no environmental reason why the pipeline should not be built. Yet, despite the prospect of creating more than 20,000 construction jobs immediately, the pipeline project remains on hold while the pleas of job-hungry American workers are ignored.
American families have good reason to be concerned about their economic futures. Although Wall Street is soaring, Main Street is lagging. Slower than expected job growth in May pushed the official unemployment rate up to 7.6 percent. When one also considers the number of Americans who have given up on finding a job, the actual unemployment rate is in the range of 12 percent.
Yet the administration appears too distracted by scandals or too beholden to its political base to approve the pipeline. And as long as the delay continues, America will be prevented from launching a project that has been called a “no brainer” and an “economic slam dunk.”
Jobs and energy security are not partisan issues and should not be held hostage by Washington politics. Rather, they are the prerequisite to putting food on tables and roofs over heads and providing economic opportunities for everyone in the United States.
The House of Representatives acknowledged this fact when it voted on May 22 to take the Keystone pipeline decision away from the White House, despite a presidential veto threat. In coming days, the Senate is expected to vote.
In March, 17 Democratic senators joined Republicans to endorse the Keystone pipeline in a nonbinding vote. Let’s hope they soon will approve the pipeline in sufficient numbers to override the president’s politically motivated delays.
Weather Journal70 Thursday to ice Sunday?