30 April 2007 21:00 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Chemical producers and other manufacturing and agricultural interests warned on Monday that the US Congress will accelerate job losses and drive energy costs higher if it fails to grant access to domestic natural gas supplies.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) joined more than 130 US manufacturing, agricultural, mining and other industrial sectors in appealing to Congress to open more US offshore areas to energy development.
About 85% of US outer continental shelf (OCS) regions, principally off the US east and west coasts and along Alaska's shores, are off-limits to drilling under 25-year-old congressional moratoria.
Congress imposed the energy development bans in the early 1980s in order to protect coastal recreational areas from possible pollution by offshore drilling. When the moratoria were first put in place, supplies of US domestic natural gas from onshore and Gulf of Mexico wells were plentiful and cheap.
Although consumer and industrial demand for natural gas has increased sharply along with gas prices in recent years, Congress has routinely renewed the drilling bans each year.
The Consumer Alliance on Energy Security, a broad coalition of chemical and other industries who need a dependable supply of reasonably priced gas, told Congress that "The abundant natural gas in the OCS is critical to fulfil the needs of American consumers, sustain the nation's manufacturing and agricultural economies and jobs, and enhance energy security.
"It is striking that with the domestic natural gas market severely constrained by federal policy," said the alliance, referring to the offshore drilling bans, "Congress is considering a raft of new proposals that will significantly increase natural gas demand without addressing the urgent need for more supply."
Under a new Democrat majority, Congress is considering a range of legislation that would increase reliance on natgas for electric power generation, production of biobased fuels such as ethanol and greater fuel efficiency in US-made automobiles.
"Given the economic damage the US has suffered from high natural gas prices in recent years, it would simply be irresponsible to create additional demand for natural gas without also allowing supplies to grow," the alliance said.
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