CNG – the new buzzword. Compressed natural gas has everything going for it. We’ve got huge surpluses of methane. The petroleum-based variety of auto fuel is in much shorter supply. Can we make the conversion? For some reason a lot of people in Arkansas think we can. The “Natural State,” as it calls itself, is emerging as a center of a CNG conversion. Selling at the equivalent of only $2.13 a gallon, it’s already an attractive alternative. The only problems are infrastructure and consumer interest. A team of Southwestern Energy Company geologists are planning a 2,700-mile trip across the country to highlight the technology. And Frito-Lay has already made a big commitment to convert its trucks. Is this just a passing fad or a true energy transformation? We’ll see.
One idea that never goes out of fashion – in South America, at least – is government seizures of foreign companies. Standing in front of a wall-length portrait of Eva Peron (above), Argentina’s leftist President Cristina Fernandez announced she will ask her President-controlled Congress to seize 51 percent ownership of YPF, the Argentinian subsidiary of Spain’s giant Repsol, which just recently recorded big finds in oil and gas. Argentinians have been hard hit by world oil prices and Fernandez said energy was too important a commodity . . .etc. etc. Europeans were outraged at the old-fashioned 1930s-style takeover and threatened economic isolation. But there may be a a Broadway musical in Fernandez’s future.
The possibilities of turning the US into a world energy provider took another step forward yesterday as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Chenier Energy’s application for a $4 billion LNG terminal for Sabine Pass, Louisiana. Chenier stock soared on the news. At the same time, FERC doubled back on a permit issued three years ago for a similar terminal at Coos Bay, Oregon. The Jordan Cove Project was originally planned to import gas, which shows you how fast things have turned around. FERC said the owners would have to apply again to export. The FERC decision may indicate a mounting opposition to the idea of selling gas abroad. Congressman Ed Markey is starting an “American gas for Americans” campaign in Congress and the Sierra Club is opposing a Texas LNG terminal. Good thing there aren’t any foreign gas companies prowling around.
The energy debate in Washington continued as Congressman Fred Upton criticized the Obama Administration in the weekly Republican address. The Michigan representative blamed the Presidient for high gas prices and called for more drilling and less regulation. Meanwhile Congressional Democrats blamed speculators and the President began a hunt for market manipulators.
Finally, the President announced that the federal government will become involved in “coordinating” the boom in natural gas. The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior and Department of Energy will all be asked to “streamline” gas policy. Whether this marks the beginning of a federal effort to respond to fracking opponents and put the brakes on the gas boom remains to be seen. In any case, the American Petroleum Institute smiled bravely and said it welcomes the initiative.