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Why US Energy Policy cannot Rely on Natural Gas alone

With natural gas prices at such low levels many people are attracted to focussing on natural gas to supply the majority of US energy, believing that the domestically produced product will protect them from global oil price fluctuations, and ensure energy security in the future. However focussing on one source of energy unbalances the US energy sector and puts the economy at risk in the long term.

Energy policies must take a long term view and promote fuel diversity rather than choose a favourite energy technology to support. An energy strategy that focuses on low cost, low carbon electricity sources, that will reduce dependency on foreign fuel sources and promote clean electricity, can encourage long term economic growth.

Natural gas prices may be low at the moment, but they have a volatile history. Back in the 1990’s they were stable and low, but in the mid 2000’s the prices soared to record high levels.

The current natural gas market is vulnerable, and the low prices are not guaranteed. The present oversupply in the US means that the prices are 2-3 times lower than across the rest of the world. This difference allows for US gas producers to export their product for huge profits; but as demand around the world increases, gas prices in the US will start to align with the world prices.

Nuclear is just one of the options that can help protect US consumers from potential spikes in natural gas prices. It is cheap, doesn’t release carbon emissions, predictable, and efficient. Wind turbines and solar panels are amongst other energy sources that should be included in a successful energy policy.

Kevin Marsh, president and CEO of Columbia, S.C.-based SCANA, said a balanced energy portfolio is best. “You don't want to be all gas, all nuclear or all coal.”

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com

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  • Joel B. Brown on June 04 2012 said:
    There is a very simple solution to the problem of maintaining relatively low natural gas prices for decades: don't issue more export permits. This is not a Republican/Democrat, rich/poor, pro-business/anti-business issue. Rather it is an issue of a benefit to a very small number of entities vs. benefit to the vast majority. It cuts across multiple economic lines: low natural gas prices are stimulative, counter-inflationary and pro-environmental as they permit the economic retirement of coal fired power generation.

    Secretary Chu should take Nancy Reagan's advice and just say no.
  • Mel Tisdale on May 16 2012 said:
    Why is the thorium-based molten salt reactor system never mentioned? It was proven to work by America some fifty years ago and only dropped because the Cold War demanded nuclear weapons, something that thorium is no good for. It is clean, does not need high pressure cooling with all the associated dangers and vast containment vessels, does not need enormous quantities of scarce water and so can be located anywhere instead of constrained to rivers and coasts, is inherently safe (it automatically shuts down if there is a power cut) and to repeat, of no use in making nuclear weapons, so a potential export industry. In addition to all of those benefits, thorium reactors can be made so small they can be manufactured in one location and then transported by road to wherever they are needed (and easily decommissioned should another, better, power production system come to the for, such as nuclear fusion.

    China has adopted the thorium molten salt design, and not a moment too soon considering its carbon emissions.

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