House gets earful on natural gas prospects

June 21, 2013 at 6:50 AM

WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- U.S. natural gas production is on the rise though industry and environmental groups told U.S. leaders they were divided on the potential benefits.

The U.S. Energy Department said it expects overall natural gas production to increase from 69.2 billion cubic feet per day reported last year to 70.4 billion cubic feet per day in 2014 in part because of technological developments tied to shale gas reserves

Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., chairman of a House subcommittee on trade and commerce, testified about the potential economic benefits of the natural gas sector.

"While growth of the manufacturing job base has slowed to a crawl, the jobs that have been created can be directly attributed to the low price of natural gas," he said during Thursday's hearing. "A cheap and plentiful supply of natural gas is a key [to recovery]."

Paul Cicio, president of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, told the House panel of the caution needed during the early stages of natural gas production growth. Coal is still needed in the energy mix, he said.

"This will ensure that electricity prices stay reasonable over the long-term," he said.

Phyllis Cuttino, director of the clean energy program at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said renewable energy, however, could provide just as many benefits in terms of energy security, environmental security and economic opportunity.

"The rationale for the clean energy revolution is no different than the rationale for the ongoing natural gas revolution," she testified.

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