US ENERGY: PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE Gas Demand Grows Steadily, but Supply Increases Faster. NATURAL GAS Series: POWERING THE US INTO THE 21st CENTURY. PART 1 OF A 5 PART SERIES. Fourth of Five Stories Appearing Today
Scott Pendleton, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
FOR the first time in the modern era of our industry, we have no regulation on production or on end use. Because of that, we see a very exciting, very exciting period for natural gas," says Michael Baly, president of the American Gas Association (AGA).
It's easy to understand why. Disastrous federal regulations crimped gas supplies until 1978, then opened the floodgates. The ensuing chaos hasn't fully ended: Some producers must still sell price-controlled gas for less than the going rate. And Columbia Gas System, whose pipeline subsidiary serves 14 states, recently declared bankruptcy to escape contracts that make it buy gas for up to five times the current spot price.
But price controls are phasing out. And the Bush administration's proposed national energy strategy calls for eliminating an unnecessary "regulatory morass" that remains. If Congress acts, the resulting increase in natural gas consumption could displace 3.7 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) of oil by 2000, the Bush administration says. …