A New Fuel Fix: Boon or Bane? ; the US Increases Natural-Gas Imports to Meet Energy Demands. Will It Create a New Dependency?

By Mark Clayton writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 23, 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A New Fuel Fix: Boon or Bane? ; the US Increases Natural-Gas Imports to Meet Energy Demands. Will It Create a New Dependency?

Mark Clayton writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor

Climbing to the top of a dizzyingly curved stairway welded to the side of a huge cylindrical tank, Tom Gehrig thinks he can see America's energy future.

It's a gargantuan tank - dwarfing the one he's standing on - which he would build here in Fall River, Mass., to hold 200,000 cubic meters of imported liquefied natural gas. LNG would help meet the United States' growing energy needs, but this project has sparked protests by residents of this working-class city, worried about terrorist attacks. "I'm a believer in free markets," says Mr. Gehrig, president of Weaver's Cove Energy, gazing across the site. "If people don't want LNG, the question I would ask them back is: 'What are you going to do?' "

What indeed?

For three decades, the US has coped - sometimes uncomfortably - with its growing reliance on foreign oil. But at least that dependence was limited to transportation, while domestic coal and gas continued to power the nation's factories and heat its homes. Now, the rising price of domestic natural gas has triggered a plan to dampen those price hikes by bringing in foreign LNG.

That may be smart economics, at least in the short term. But some analysts worry that in the long run, the US may be setting itself up to become dependent on a second foreign fuel, just as it has become increasingly dependent on foreign oil since the 1970s.

"All we're talking about doing is replacing one dependency with another," says Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington, D.C., a think tank focused on energy security issues. "The main sources of natural gas are located in the Middle East and Russia. So we're talking about the same sort of problem."

Some of the parallels are uncanny. The US is largely self- sufficient in generating electricity. Nearly half comes from coal, 20 percent is nuclear, about 18 percent is powered by natural gas, and the rest comes from hydropower and other renewable sources. Excluding gas piped in from Canada and Mexico, natural-gas imports (in the form of LNG) made up about 3 percent of US demand last year.

That will almost certainly change. Imports of LNG - the liquid form of natural gas, supercooled to 260 degrees below zero so it can be transported by tankers - could rise to 21 percent of total US gas consumption by 2025, according to the Department of Energy. Some economists who have looked at the issue say it could easily rise to 25 to 30 percent by then. That's roughly the share of oil imported to the US when the first energy crisis hit in the 1970s.

"There are certainly people who are worried about the US trading one form of energy dependence for another," says Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition. His group recently proposed a plan for added US energy security that includes LNG imports - but only warily. "If LNG became a principal source of energy for the US and demand rises around the world, we're going to have problems in the future similar to those that we have with oil today," he notes

There are some mitigating factors, however. For one, nations with the potential to export LNG may be more numerous and far more geographically diverse than the current oil-producing nations, some experts note.

Known global reserves are estimated at 5,500 trillion cubic feet. To tap that, more than 60 new LNG liquefaction facilities that can chill the gas to a liquid for transport are in planning or construction phases, according to Henry Lee, director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Program at Harvard University. Norway, Russia, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, and Peru, among many others, hope to join Indonesia, Oman, Algeria, Nigeria, Libya, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates as exporters.

But building a liquefaction facility would require an upfront investment of $1 billion or more. Once they invested that amount, few nations would be likely to reduce production or cut off supplies, Dr.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A New Fuel Fix: Boon or Bane? ; the US Increases Natural-Gas Imports to Meet Energy Demands. Will It Create a New Dependency?


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?