July 8th, 2009 marks the one-year anniversary of T. Boone Pickens' Energy Independence Day. What's the goal? It is energy independence for our great nation by relying on the natural treasures we already have in abundance. To hear energy futurists talk, you might think Americans are driving around with windmills on their car powered by wind turbines. Or that ethanol is the "holy grail" of biofuel despite the fact that this corn-based biofuel expends significant energy to produce and takes away valuable food-stock. Fuel made from algae may become the next great "American Idol" winner if only it was actually available.
What's an environmentally responsible source of clean energy that is available in America today that can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil? It's natural gas, and it's ready for its close-up. Natural gas reserves are abundant in the U.S. and I believe they're key to cutting dependence on foreign oil and to powering our economic recovery.
Natural gas is America's second largest energy resource, behind coal, and a vital component of our energy supply. T. Boone Pickens and other energy industry experts believe that domestic natural gas reserves are twice that of oil, and new discoveries of natural gas, such as what we are seeing in the Haynesville Shale, are adding to existing reserves due to the technological advances in shale gas production that have created more prolific wells. We currently have an oversupply of natural gas despite a 56% reduction in the number of rigs drilling for natural gas to 700 from the September peak of more than 1600.
In addition to being a domestically abundant and secure source of energy, the use of natural gas provides many environmental benefits over other energy sources, particularly other fossil fuels. Many Americans depend on safe, efficient and clean burning natural gas to heat and cool their homes. Natural gas fuels many manufacturing and electricity generation plants, and is a key ingredient in many products that we use every day.
Today, natural gas is one of the most commonly used sources of energy in the world. Its benefits are enjoyed by over 60 million people. Many homes use natural gas for heat as do schools and hospitals. Many stoves and water heaters use natural gas too. Industry is the biggest consumer of natural gas, using it mainly as a heat source to manufacture goods. Factories are burning natural gas to make products like paper and cement. Natural gas is also an ingredient in paints, glues, fertilizers, plastics, medicines, photographic film, ink, glue, plastics, laundry detergent, and insect repellents and many other products. Synthetic rubber and man-made fibers like nylon also could not be made without the chemicals derived from natural gas.
The Council for Responsible Energy survey established that 60 percent of Americans feel that natural gas is an environmentally friendly energy source. Fifty-one percent agree that using the gas in a home gives superior comfort and performance.
U.S. oil consumption averages more than 20 million barrels a day and Americans spend more than $500 billion on energy bills annually, according to Beacon Equity Research. I believe that as more U.S. firms discover smart ways to access fuels domestically, those numbers could drop--helping to stabilize energy costs and to keep jobs in America. Let us work together to ensure that Americans have access to low cost energy free of geopolitical rancor.