Keep natural gas for domestic use

Posted Thursday, Dec. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Recently, in the Star-Telegram and in other U.S. newspapers, guest columns have touted the export of natural gas extracted from underneath us to the highest worldwide bidder.

This will be readily possible once liquefied natural gas export terminals are completed on our Gulf Coast — more so when the widening of the Panama Canal is completed.

We are told that by selling our LNG abroad we will be able to increase the number of goods and services we can afford to import, thereby improving living standards in the U.S.

We are told that boosting exports will actually drive down domestic energy costs over the long term.

We are told that the U.S. is projected to gain net economic benefits from allowing LNG exports.

I disagree with all these statements.

The price of natural gas is extremely low because there’s a glut of it.

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has pushed an energy plan in which he suggests we switch all large freight-hauling trucks to use natural gas as fuel.

He tells us we can then continue to run all other vehicles on conventional fuels and never have to import another barrel of crude oil from anyone.

This would accomplish two things.

First, it would drive up depressed natural gas prices to a level that would make the continued development of “green” alternatives like wind and solar power a viable endeavor.

Second, it would do away with Wall Street speculation on imported crude. Bart Chilton, a Bush appointee and Obama holdover on our Commodity Futures Trading Commission, says this speculation adds between $7 and $14, depending on the type of vehicle we drive, to each tank of gas we buy.

Selling LNG to foreign entities would help improve our trade imbalance, but this money would be flowing into the oil company’s bank accounts. I would prefer to have it just stay in mine.

Because higher fuel costs result in higher prices for virtually everything we purchase and consume, we should consider the idea that the oil and gas underneath us is a natural resource that should benefit all of us to the fullest extent, not just the oil companies.

Lower fuel costs mean more money for discretionary spending, decreased manufacturing costs, lower transportation costs, lower utility bills, lower food costs — you name it, the price of oil affects them all.

Many may not know what people in other exporting countries pay for gasoline. People in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait all pay less than $1 per gallon.

Is this a government subsidy? Sure it is.

Our federal government also offers fuel subsidies, but not to the consumer. They are given to U.S. oil companies in the form of tax deductions.

How in the world did they determine that those companies, which show massive profits year after year, needed a break more than we common-bred consumers do?

It is time we leveled the playing field. It will not get done without each of us reaching out to our elected officials and letting them know that the rules must be changed.

John T. Johnson III is an Arlington independent businessman and consumer advocate.

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