Gas Could Solve Our Energy Problems

Editor, News-Register:

According to the April 2011 issue of Time magazine, the amount of recoverable natural gas from Marcellus Shale is upwards of 50 trillion cubic feet. That is the energy equivalent of 86 billion barrels of oil.

Many of our elected officials, both at the federal and state levels, have been heard to cry out over and over again, “We must reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” Although I agree 100 percent with that statement, I’ve always had the feeling that no one would or could really do anything about it. Well, here’s our chance.

The United States produces roughly half of the petroleum we use each day, with about 20 percent more oil being imported from friendly countries like Canada. However, we import slightly over 9 million barrels of crude oil and another 2.7 million barrels of petroleum products from OPEC every day. Let’s see: 9 plus 2.7 (let’s call that 3) is 12 million barrels, times 365 days in a year is equal to 4.38 billion/year. Then 86 billion divided by 4.38 billion? Wow! Marcellus Shale could completely replace petroleum imports from OPEC for 20 years. And there is an even bigger natural gas reserve below Marcellus, called Utica.

A quick Google search I did showed that the price of natural gas is about a penny per cubic foot. Now, I don’t know if that price is at the well-head or at the kitchen stove. But either way, we’re talking about $500 billion. Hey, you want to know how West Virginia could increase her tax revenue by millions, allow the gas industry to make billions and at the same time reduce (or eliminate) our dependence on foreign oil from OPCE?

It’s a fact that all of the Marcellus Shale does not lie below West Virginia, but a substantial portion does – enough that West Virginia could set the example. All that needs to be done is for our legislators to draft a bill – signed into law by our soon to be newly elected governor – to impose a 30 percent severance tax on natural gas produced here and sold abroad – like to our financial enemy, China. Then, reduce that tax down to 20 percent for each cubic foot that is sold and used as energy here in the United States and a further reduction down to10 percent for any gas sold and used exclusively in West Virginia. You pass a law similar to that and just watch how the gas industry scrambles to put in place provisions that would enable them to capitalize on that 10 and 20 percent tax break. Why, you would soon be able to “fill-up” with natural gas just like we now do with gasoline. Just think, y’all, we could not only have millions of cars running around West Virginia on environmentally friendly natural gas, but also use natural gas from Marcellus as an abundant and inexpensive fuel with which to convert coal to gasoline.

Both the United States and West Virginia would win, win and win! Such a move might even reduce the price of gasoline at the pump. Even if it did, I wouldn’t hesitate to convert my car to run on natural gas if it was made readily available.

Is all this likely to happen? No way! I am of the mind-set that no politician from anywhere will do anything other than what is best for his or her career – which always renders down to campaign contributions. The natural gas industry, of course, would lobby heavily against anything other than a very small severance tax coupled with no penalty whatsoever for selling abroad. When it’s all over, industry and the politician will win, but they’ll tell us that we won – and decline will take another step.

Michael Alvarez