To the editor:
The use of natural gas was first exploited at the beginning of the last century. As large fields were found, pipelines were built and the United States began its rise to the world's economic power because the industrialization of the period had an ample and cheap energy source.
The interstate transportation of natural gas was regulated in the 1950s due to an oversupply and price-fixing by sellers to a captive market. The design was to protect the consumers and the correlative rights of the producers and royalty owners by setting the price and withdraw rates from the wells The price at the time was set at 6 cents per thousand cubic feet. By 1970, the regulated price had risen to about 20 cents. In the mid-'70s, shortages occurred. Gas was deregulated and the price fluctuated from $2 to $8. President Carter's study found that at present rates, the U.S. would be out of gas by 2020. We learned to insulate and conserve.
Thousands of drilling rigs were built. We went to deeper waters offshore. Consumption was reduced. Many new fields were found, and there soon was an oversupply. Most of the 1990s, saw the price fall to an average of just over $1. The low prices caused the scrapping of 75 percent of the rigs drilling for oil and gas. The moratorium was lifted on gas-fired electric plants.
In the last few years, consumption has risen dramatically. The cheap price, electric generation increases and strong economy have contributed to this. In 2000, the demand began to exceed the supply and the price has risen to $7.
As a geologist, I have spent my adult life looking for and finding gas and oil wells. I have to state that they are not easy to find. I feel there are not large enough undiscovered reserves remaining in the U.S. to meet the anticipated increases in demand in years to come.
Today the shortage of natural gas is real. It has been reported that supply disruptions are likely in some areas if this winter remains cold. We cannot stop the electric generation or the entire country would see rolling blackouts very soon.
I see no short-term or long-term fix. I hope to be proven wrong. I plan to use and promote coal, solar, geothermal and nuclear energy and wood-burning stores. This is what will be left to power this century.
Stephen J. Miller,