Murkowski: Expanding Natural Gas Use Good for Alaska, Nation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today delivered the following opening statement at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on a new MIT study on U.S. natural gas supplies:

“I appreciate the chance to learn more about MIT’s recent study, and being able to spend some time thinking about the future of one of our nation’s most promising resources.  Natural gas is clean-burning and abundant; it’s well understood and scalable; and it’s clearly in our best interest to ensure that we maintain a stable and affordable supply going forward. 

“One of the easiest observations to make is that we’re now in the midst of a truly exciting time for the natural gas industry.  Just in the past several years, we’ve witnessed game-changing technological innovations that have unlocked tremendous volumes of previously inaccessible natural gas. Those resources are already benefitting our nation by further diversifying our energy supplies, growing our economy, and creating thousands and thousands of well-paying American jobs.

“This is even more remarkable when you consider that three or four years ago, we were facing a very different situation.  If this was 2005, our opening statements would probably have expressed at least some concern about our ability to ensure that supply kept pace with demand.  Prices were trending higher, and many forecasts suggested that we’d become increasingly dependent on foreign LNG.

“Today, however, new applications of technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have significantly shifted that picture. At moderate cost, our vast natural gas resources can meet the most aggressive projections of demand and amount to more than 100 years of supply at today’s consumption rates.

“Of course, I think every member of this committee is well aware of my strong interest in helping my home state bring its huge reserves of natural gas to market.  But you should also know that I made a decision very early to encourage the expanded development and transportation of natural gas all throughout the country, even though many felt that the shale gas revolution would be bad for Alaska’s prospects – and there are two reasons for this.  The first is that it’s still the right thing for Alaska, as I believe that we’ll ultimately have an easier time selling our gas to a nation that’s built-out a larger market and infrastructure for gas-fired power and gas-fired vehicles.  That’s within reach right now. 

“The other reason why I’m such a strong supporter of shale gas is that it’s simply the right decision for our country as a whole.  Natural gas was once thought of as “too precious to burn” but that’s changed, and for the better.  When I look at the deeply troubling situation in North Africa and the Middle East, I don’t see a future where we can afford to play politics with energy at the national level.  The rest of the world has already figured that out, and I’m hopeful we’re beginning to see this reality, as well. 

“I’d like to add that developing all of our resources in a responsible way is of paramount importance, and natural gas is no exception. We cannot realize the many benefits of our tremendous natural gas resource unless we commit to safe, environmentally acceptable production and delivery, within a framework of appropriate regulation and access.  Contrary to some reports, the industry actually has a very exemplary record in this regard.  I welcome its efforts to proactively seek ways to increase transparency and improve the efficiency of the extraction process.

“Mr. Chairman, I’ll conclude by thanking you again for organizing this hearing.  A lot of our members, myself included, are champions of natural gas.  Greater use of natural gas would move our nation in the right direction in terms of energy security, economic growth, and environmental protection.  Those are three critically important goals, and every one of them is possible, thanks to our nation’s vast natural gas resources.” 

The full MIT report can be found here: http://web.mit.edu/mitei/research/studies/natural-gas-2011.shtml