Articulating a Positive Message

Neither the U.S. Senate nor the House of Representatives will be in session this week and this “break in the action” gives those of us who strongly support expediting the flow of U.S. natural gas into the global marketplace a chance to catch our breath, read some recent news clips, and reflect on the arguments that those on the other side of the issue are tossing at us and our congressional champions.

To be sure, the situation in Ukraine represents as my friend and colleague Denise Bode puts it: “a teachable moment.” Those come infrequently, and thus the current climate does indeed present a unique opportunity for us to reach both uncommitted decision-makers and individual citizens. Our challenge is to articulate a positive message, and here are some thoughts for your consideration:

Fuel Diversity. World energy resources are not evenly distributed and many nations do not have sufficient domestic fuels to meet present and projected demand. Some of these countries are very dependent on a single supplier. If that supplier is a state or a state-controlled company, then the energy may come with political strings attached. Therefore, one U.S. foreign policy goal should be to encourage the free trade in energy resources whenever possible to provide America’s allies with enhanced fuel diversity.

Sharing America’s Abundance. There is no refuting the fact that America’s economic progress in recent years is due in part to the oil and natural gas renaissance that has been brought about by new techniques that have unlocked “unconventional” energy resources. This has been a boon for U.S. residential, commercial, and industrial gas consumers. Exports of American natural gas will, several expert studies agree, help our international allies, and lead to additional jobs and greater economic growth here in the United States. These studies also show that such exports will not cause undue energy price increases here at home.

Price Stability. The United States now enjoys a level of natural gas price stability that was simply unobtainable a few years ago. Abundant new gas discoveries, a greatly expanded pipeline network, and new storage facilities all help ensure that natural gas is available when and where it is needed. This, in turn, helps dampen price spikes. Consider the following: According to Bentek Energy, three of the top five months for total natural gas demand over the last eight years occurred during this heating season (Dec. 2013, Jan. 2014, and Feb. 2014). Yet, despite the extremely cold weather, the EIA’s March 11 Short-Term Energy Outlook reports that: “Residential natural gas prices are expected to average $10.05 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) this winter, an increase of $0.30/Mcf (3%) from last winter. Yes, energy bills are up slightly this winter, but the culprit is the cold weather that depleted “natural gas working inventories [which] on February 28 totaled 1.20 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), 0.91Tcf (43%) below the level at the same time a year ago.”