Natural gas an asset for county

Marion County probably will join in an American international economic advantage.

It will involve a resource we already know is here.

Lately, the public seems to have some awareness of the new, intense U.S. oil and gas production. There are big, ongoing industrial efforts to build drilling, processing and pipeline infrastructure to meet world demand.

The United States is expected to become the leading world exporter for oil and gas, with Canada expected to be second.

We have hopes for increasing oil production here. But it could be that natural gas is more abundant in Marion County, with current production based in the eastern to northeastern parts of the county.

But if new horizontal drilling efforts provide production of surprisingly large quantities of liquid natural gas as it has in other areas, we may find the gas potential dwarfs the oil potential here.

If this county?s gas production is not a large percentage liquid gases, the local economy can still benefit by providing gas supplies for homes and industries. This could help offset any loss in supply benefit here for liquids going for exports.

There are many potential gas market uses increasing demand.

Electric power companies are rapidly building power plants to use more environmentally friendly, lower-cost natural gas rather than continue with coal.

Liquid natural gas varies in composition, but can include ethane, butane, propane and pentane or natural gasoline.

It is regarded as a huge economic advantage for the United States that it has more than 2 million miles of natural gas pipelines with distribution to every major city and about 63 million homes, according to industry sources.

Large American pipeline companies such as Kinder Morgan and Enterprise Product Partners are building pipelines to direct more liquid gases for export from the Gulf of Mexico and over the Canadian mountains to the west for export to Asia.

Kinder Morgan even is including coal in new efforts to export liquefied coal from the Gulf to offset lowering American demand because of environmental restrictions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, coal consumption by power plants in the United States declined 6 percent last year with greater natural gas use for electrical generation. But the analyst warned this trend could slow as gas prices go up.

The Environmental Protection Agency predicts that under new standards for coal-burning electrical plants, no more coal generating facilities will be built in the United States for at least eight years.

The EPA said new systems required for coal burning plants will increase electricity produced from them to about twice the cost of natural gas-fired generation.

Exon Mobil is working to export gas from Texas at its new Golden Pass liquid natural gas terminal at a rate of 2.8 billion cubic feet daily.

In my opinion, federal administration and U.S. Department of Energy efforts to slow gas infrastructure and pipeline development would be better served in finding ways to control larger carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere as a result of burning more gas.

I asked one of the leading energy writers and commentators in the country, who lives in Wisconsin, about the probability of government efforts to slow gas production and exports in this country.

Our private conversation took place in mid-September, but since I didn?t know I might use his insights in an article, I don?t feel free to use his name without his permission. I was unable to talk to him before Free Press publication time.

I was surprised he totally dismissed the government?s ability to do much because of the immense size and international spread of the industry.

He said nations from Europe through Asia want our liquid natural gas to further their economies, and rid themselves of the negative effects of OPEC.

The Japanese are betting on American gas production in the wake of nuclear-earthquake disaster to grow their economy in what they see as an environmentally friendly, clean way.

European and Asian automobile fuel is being switched faster to natural gas instead of gasoline than it is here.

There are concerns that more liquid natural gas exports will mean continued lower levels of manufacturing jobs here as we provide for more abundant energy resource in other countries.

The net opinion from economic and business sources seems to be that gas here will become abundant enough to bring manufacturing jobs back while enhancing economies elsewhere also.

Think of what a world freed from some of the rancor of OPEC with greater economic opportunity in Marion County could mean here.

And, even if only a small part of that works out to be true, Marion County may benefit more from something it already has.