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Swimming in Natural Gas

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Last July when I launched the Pickens Plan to get America to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, one of the pillars was to rely on home-grown energy. It makes no sense for us as a country to be shipping billions of dollars overseas when we have such abundant resources that could be tapped, including wind, solar, and, as yesterday's Wall Street Journal points out, natural gas.

"U.S. Gas Fields Go From Bust to Boom" read the headline of the front-page story, and the focus was the "big shift in the nation's energy landscape." We now have the technological know-how to tap into trillions of cubic feet of natural gas trapped in rock formations called shales. I've been a geologist for over 50 years, and I promise you this is a game changer. Wildcatters have been drilling in the Haynesville Shale since the 1870s. Trouble was no one could figure out how to extract the natural gas. Just three years ago natural-gas production was thought to be permanently declining in the U.S.

But in North Texas -- my backyard -- we found the answer. Last year, by itself, the Barnett Shale produced four billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, and it's one of 20 shales in America. As the Journal points out, "the U.S. is now swimming in natural gas." One study estimates that we have enough natural gas to satisfy current demand for the next century. So why are we still importing foreign oil?

I've been on The View, The Tonight Show, Larry King Live, and just about every other show on TV pitching my plan. I've backed it up by spending millions to buy television ads to spread the word. If you've ever heard me talking about natural gas, then you'll know I always say that it's cheap, it's clean, and it's ours. The Journal makes the same point:

"The discoveries have spurred energy experts and policy makers to start looking to natural gas in their pursuit of a wide range of goals: easing the impact of energy-price spikes, reducing dependence on foreign oil, lowering 'greenhouse gas' emissions and speeding the transition to renewable fuels."

I don't care how you put it. Just a few years ago energy experts were writing natural gas off. Now, it's almost as if divine intervention has occurred. We're swimming in it. That's why H.R. 1835, the NAT GAS Act, enjoys such strong bipartisan support with 10 Republicans and 20 Democrats writing and cosponsoring this important piece of legislation.

One last point: 98 percent of the natural gas used in the U.S. is produced right here in North America. Why is that important? Just ask Europe. This January in the dead of winter, Russia slashed natural gas shipments to the Ukraine and Western Europe and completely cut off the Balkans and Turkey over a contract dispute. How did the European Union respond? By telling the Russians that their actions were "completely unacceptable." Hell of a response. You think OPEC wouldn't cut off our crude over a major disagreement? Hugo Chavez would do that in a heartbeat.

Remember, establishing a sustainable energy policy that relies on domestic resources such as natural gas is not just an economic issue. First and foremost, it's a security issue.

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