A broad coalition of industrial consumers of natural gas launched a campaign last week to win congressional approval of legislation that would open new areas of offshore waters to energy exploration and development.
At a Washington, D.C., news conference, representatives of the recently formed Consumer Alliance for Energy Security said rapidly rising domestic gas prices are damaging the U.S. industrial base, citing a loss of more than 3.1 million manufacturing jobs since the price surge began in 2000.
"America is suffering an energy crisis, which is hurting our economy and threatening our jobs," said John M. Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. "With our manufacturing base and our communities at risk, it's time to reduce costs and expand supplies."
"Every single American is feeling the pain of high energy prices," added American Chemistry Council President and CEO Jack N. Gerard. After the warmest winter on record, he said, consumers' heating bills are still up an average of 23% this year for natural gas and 24% for oil. "It's clear that America's competitiveness, jobs, and economic growth are at risk," Gerard declared. "The question is, 'Will Congress at last take action on one of the most important issues facing our nation?' "
The alliance urged Congress to act on several pending proposals, including a bill passed 16 to 5 by the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on March 8 requiring the Interior Department to hold an oil and natural gas lease sale within one year for an area south of the Florida panhandle. The so-called Lease Sale 181 area, which is more than 100 miles off the Florida coast, contains an estimated 5 trillion cu ft of natural gas.
The groups also support a more sweeping House bill, sponsored by Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.), that would lift the two-decade-old ban on offshore drilling off most of the U.S. coastline.