Sheila McNulty US natural gas lobby gaining traction in Washington, DC

It has taken several months of intense lobbying, but the US natural gas industry is gaining traction in Washington. Not only have those behind the Boxer-Kerry climate bill being debated in the Senate assured the industry that its goals will be represented in the bill. But Representatives from Oklahoma and Pennsylvania – Dan Boren and Tim Murphy – have created a Congressional Natural Gas Caucus to boost the profile of natural gas.

Rod Lowman, President of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the group of natural gas companies formed to make the industry’s case to the Senate, has this to say:

Congressmen Boren and Murphy, whose districts are both home to large supplies of natural gas and to producers, suppliers, utilities and end users that rely on it, have already begun recruiting other members of Congress. A growing number of states are focused on the new politics of natural gas.

Lest one should underestimate the potential for influence here, Mr Lowman noted that natural gas is produced in 32 states and employs nearly 3m people across the country. That means there are 32 governors, 64 senators and 324 members of Congress from natural gas producing states who could potentially back the industry, he says.

If the natural gas industry can gain traction with Congress, the industry might be smiling more than the coal industry did following the passage of the Waxman-Markey climate bill in the House.

And that might be best for environmentalists.

For Amy Myers Jaffe, energy expert at Rice University, says that, given all the giveaways to the coal industry in the Waxman-Markey bill, those hoping to limit the impact of global warming might well consider the country better off without the passage of that bill. If the US essentially grandfather’s coal, she says, that would be worse than doing nothing.

Because, if left to an even playing field, she said, natural gas would be likely to supplant coal use because it is going to be less expensive than coal and has about half the carbon emissions as coal.