Recent articles, editorials and letters to the editor have reacted to natural gas rate increase decisions. Colorado consumers need additional facts regarding the natural gas market and how the national marketplace affects citizens of our state.Natural gas needs are primarily met by North American resources, which are used to heat homes, generate electric power, fuel manufacturing and process industries, and provide a primary feedstock for fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and plastics. Most of Colorado’s homes and businesses are heated by natural gas, and over 3,000 megawatts of clean-burning natural-gas-fired electric generation capacity has been built to meet the state’s growing power demand.Natural gas underlying federal government lands benefits all of us – here and outside of Colorado. Federal lands are owned by all our citizens and are for the benefit of our nation. Recent price increases for natural gas highlight the need to allow exploration companies to search for and produce natural gas supplies in the ground. This can and will be done with respect for environmental values.Calls for limiting the export of natural gas to national markets are contrary to law, or system of commerce, and would ultimately hurt consumers:Should Iowa corn stay in Iowa?Should Kansas wheat stay in Kansas?Should Wyoming coal be used only in Wyoming?Perhaps Coors beer should only be sold in Colorado.A free marketplace and the ability to produce products and sell them to consumers ultimately makes our economy stronger and more competitive. This notion is embedded in the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.Colorado natural gas customers have, and will continue to enjoy, lower prices for natural gas because they are close to production areas and transportation costs are lower. Published reports confirm that the cost of natural gas in Colorado remains below the national average, in line with prices in nearby states such as Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska.Let’s not be buffaloed into wrong thinking that keeping natural gas for ourselves will result in lower prices. Even if it was legal, if Colorado gas was shut off from national markets, producers would have no choice but to invest elsewhere and Colorado production – currently sixth in the nation – would rapidly deplete.- J. Greg Schnacke is the executive vice president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association in Denver.
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