Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact:John Wright
For Immediate Release: November 21, 2003
Clean-Burning Natural Gas, Clean Coal Initiatives Tap
Abundant Energy Resources While Protecting Environment

(CASPER, WYO.) – Americans can have both energy production and environmental protection at the same time, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said today.

“We need a reliable supply of natural gas to heat our homes, to power our lives, keep our businesses operating in the black — and in America,” Norton said. “We all have a stake in making sure clean, domestically produced natural gas is available and that we use the resources responsibly and protect the quality of life provided by public lands.”

In a speech to the Wyoming Business Alliance and Heritage Foundation in Casper, Norton said the energy bill that passed the House of Representatives will modernize the nation’s energy production and distribution systems, promote conservation, environmentally sound production, and new technologies. She cited President Bush’s natural gas and clean coal initiatives in the bill as examples of how the nation can responsibly develop its plentiful and critically important energy resources.

America faces a natural gas crisis because domestic production has not kept pace with demand. Americans use 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year; 60 million American households and 40 percent of American industry depend on natural gas. Because of its air quality benefits, 90 percent of our new energy plants will be powered by natural gas.

National leaders have been aware of the growing imbalance between supply and demand since 1999, but while the last administration encouraged the use of clean-burning natural gas, it neglected to encourage its production.

“Thus we are seeing spikes in the market price of natural gas as demand rises and supply cannot keep pace – spikes that have a dramatic impact on American lives,” Norton said.

Residential consumers in Central Ohio are paying nearly double what they were charged in 2000 for natural gas to heat their homes. Farmers are paying higher prices for fertilizer made with natural gas and for running irrigation pumps; heating greenhouses; and ironically, producing ethanol.

American factory workers also are hurt because long-term predictions of high natural gas prices cause many companies to move natural-gas-based manufacturing overseas, to places where gas is available at a fraction of the American price. Thousands upon thousands of jobs may soon be permanently lost to American workers.

The president’s energy bill also contains a 10-year Clean Coal Power Initiative that provides grants to develop clean coal technologies and tax incentives for using the new methods.

“This $2.5 billion program will provide federal funding to companies to develop and test advanced technologies that can accomplish environmental goals,” Norton said. “Then it offers tax credits for companies actually using the technology.”

Recalling predictions in the late 70s and early 80s that coal mine development would destroy the environmental integrity of Wyoming basins, Norton said the state has “proved you can extract energy and preserve the environment at the same time.”

She noted that Kennecott Energy had recently received a national award from Interior for its innovative work at the Antelope Mine that demonstrated how reclaimed mine lands can be used to enhance wildlife habitats and increase long-term survival of native species.

The energy bill also contains tax incentives and royalty relief to increase domestic oil and gas production, as well as many incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy. “A provision of the energy bill requires the federal government to purchase up to 7.5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and encourage the installation of solar panels on public buildings,” Norton said.

“This bill authorizes $3 billion in tax incentives for production of electricity from renewable energy, such as geothermal, wind, solar, biomass and landfill natural gas, and $2.2 billion in tax incentives for hybrid and fuel cell vehicles.”


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