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US: New Natural Gas Policy Sought

Companies and conservation groups join to demand revised U.S. gas plan

Seventeen organizations--chemical companies as well as environmental and conservation groups--fired off a letter to Congress last week urging a new energy policy to solve the nation's natural gas crisis.

Over the past few years, sky-high natural gas prices have hammered chemical companies that use gas as fuel and feedstock. Consequently, companies and trade associations have appealed for government support of more drilling and production as well as greater efficiency.

Environmental and energy conservation groups have urged more efficiency, but they have been at odds with industry's push for more drilling.

This recent letter brings the two sides together, recognizing natural gas's importance as a clean and valuable fuel and as a feedstock. The groups urge a host of conservation and efficiency measures, such as renewable energy tax credits, tougher building codes, more cogeneration, and greater energy R&D.

The letter also recommends pursuing new gas supplies in a "timely and environmentally responsible" manner along with "reasonable" government oversight and "meaningful" public input. In addition, it endorses more liquefied natural gas imports.

Signatories include Dow Chemical, Bayer, DuPont, Rohm and Haas, the American Chemistry Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the National Environmental Trust, and others.

NRDC added in a separate statement that energy efficiency is the quickest way to cut demand and price. Some 80% of natural gas resources on federal onshore and offshore lands are already available for production, the group said, noting that the government issued 6,130 drilling permits last year but energy companies drilled only 2,702 new wells.

(10 January 2004)

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