Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

May 5, 2013

Harley Luplow: Wanted — New technologies, energy resources

We live in an interdependent world that requires energy and chemicals to keep our modern society functioning. As the world’s population grows and develops, it puts pressure on the lands and seas so that material resources for trade and food for consumption can become scarce.

This scarcity is overcome by technological developments. This is a cycle that continues on as our species evolves and resolves scarcities through our collective adaptation.

Until recently, natural gas was a scarcity in the U.S., requiring that we import its liquefied form (LNG) from the Caribbean islands to satisfy our demand. With new technology, the price of natural gas in the U.S. is now significantly below world price levels and has sparked an economic boom for exploration companies and those industries that benefit from low cost gas.

In fact, companies like Dow Chemical and lobbying groups such as The Fertilizer Institute want to keep the good times rolling with a plentiful supply of cheap gas. They oppose efforts to export U.S. natural gas as that issue is now before our federal regulators. In 2012, 15 companies petitioned the federal government to allow export of LNG. In response, the Energy Department requested studies and comments to help it make proper decisions on each request later this year.

J. Clark Mica, vice president of government relations for TFI, wrote to our energy secretary, Steven Chu, in opposition to LNG exports saying, “The U.S. nitrogen fertilizer industry is both energy intensive and trade exposed, with 70 to 90 percent of the cost of production being attributable to natural gas, which is used as the principal feedstock and also an energy source. Farmers in the United States rely on domestically produced nitrogen fertilizer for a significant portion of their fertilizer supply, but must compete with farmers around the world for the remainder of this critical input.”

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