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Natural Gas: A Cleaner Source of Energy for MN's Future

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February 27, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Natural gas comprises almost one-fourth of all energy used in the U.S., but there's still a large opportunity for growth. Chris McGill with the American Gas Association says there's enough natural gas in the U.S. to meet the country's energy needs for another 100 years.

"We want the country to look at the extraordinary opportunity - no heroic assumptions - to move natural gas into our energy economy even more than it is today."

McGill says natural gas makes more sense than other forms of energy, such as coal or oil, because it's much more environmentally friendly and efficient. McGill recently testified on trends in the natural-gas industry before the energy committee of the Minnesota senate.

Natural gas now generates nearly one-fourth of all electricity in the U.S., McGill says, but more can be done on that end as the supply continues to grow, and a lot can be done in transportation. Currently, more than 12 million vehicles in the world run on natural gas, but very few of them are in America, he notes.

"We can grow those markets. There's a tremendous capacity and opportunity to do that, with a domestic fuel resource that's 98 percent North American."

J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director with Fresh Energy, says the need for changing to natural gas energy is especially great in the Midwest and in Minnesota.

"We get almost 60 percent of our electricity from burning coal, and when we replace that with natural gas, we cut the mercury emissions to zero and the carbon pollution by 50 percent. It's a much better, much cleaner fuel."

Hamilton says natural gas is also more cost-effective.

"Some of Minnesota's utility companies report they are able to cut very inexpensive long-term contracts for natural gas to supply their power plants. Meanwhile, in the last 10 years, the cost of coal delivered to power plants has almost doubled."

More information is available at www.aga.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN