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Skains: How Natural Gas Can Help Obama Turn America Green

Tuesday, 21 Apr 2009 | 4:52 PM ET

Clearly the economy is on everyone’s mind but wrapped up in that issue is America’s energy independence. Based on both national security and economics, our dependence on foreign oil has played a significant role in America’s current economic position.

A key part of President Obama’s energy plan is a focus on significantly reducing current imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within the next 10 years. One of the ways to do this is by promoting the responsible domestic production of natural gas here in our own country.

The new economic stimulus package clearly demonstrates a push for America to be a more energy efficient nation. But we can’t just talk about it. We have to do it. It’s imperative that we provide real, achievable energy solutions for Americans.

In a recent survey by the Council for Responsible Energy, over 93% of Americans think it is important to use less energy at home. But less than one-half surveyed buy energy-efficient appliances/insulation and only 14 percent have made home improvements in the past two years to increase energy efficiency. American’s want to be a part of the solution, but they just don’t know how.

There is no one silver bullet.

The answer is a complex combination of energy solutions from renewables to new technologies to new ways to look at fossil fuels. For instance, one solution – natural gas – is sitting right in our backyard. Natural gas is clean, efficient, abundant and domestic. It can help America achieve energy independence quickly while creating and retaining jobs and making an immediate positive impact on the environment.

Natural gas is clean. Of all the fossil fuels, natural gas is the cleanest burning – emitting 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and 30 percent less than heating oil.

Natural gas is efficient. Natural gas customers receive 90 percent of the source natural gas delivered to their home or business as useful energy. In contrast, less than one third of the actual source energy used to generate electricity for homes reaches electric appliances. The loss of energy occurs while generating, transmitting and distributing electricity to homes and businesses.

Natural gas is abundant. Natural gas resources across this nation, and indeed globally, are abundant and production is rising. Increasing quantities of natural gas will have considerable long-term positive effects on consumers and businesses. Unconventional shale production and responsible on-shore and off-shore drilling can ensure a steady and reliable supply for the future.

Natural gas is domestic. Eighty five percent of the natural gas used in the U.S. is domestically produced. A total of ninety eight percent comes from North America. This helps our economy and reduces dependence on foreign fuel sources.

And best of all, natural gas is a solution that is available now. With only 6% of America’s energy supply coming from renewable sources today, there is a long path to adoption and production of more renewable energy. Natural gas is ready to be used in homes, businesses and transportation and right now.

So what can you do to enhance our nation’s energy security and be more environmentally responsible while saving money?

  • Take advantage of the tax credits associated with installing energy-efficient windows, doors, roofing and insulation as well as high efficiency equipment such as natural gas furnaces, air conditioners and tankless natural gas water heating. Consider undertaking new renovations that can be certified under the National Green Building Standard as part of NAHBGreen, the NAHB National Green Building Program.
  • Invest in an alternative natural gas vehicle and qualify for a federal income tax credit of up to $4,000.
  • Reduce your expenses while heating your home and replace a lower efficiency furnace with a new higher efficiency gas model. Doing so may qualify you for a tax incentive under the recently passed American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).
  • One-third of your home’s energy is used to heat water. Lower your carbon emissions, save energy and money by switching to a natural gas water heater – they are twice as efficient as electric water heaters. In fact, traditional electric water heaters are no longer Energy Star rated due to inefficiency.

To measure you home’s carbon dioxide emission number and learn how to reduce or even eliminate emissions go to comfortableresponsible.org

For more information on the benefits of natural gas go to comfortableresponsible.org

For more information on Energy Star appliances and how to qualify for tax-credits go to http://www.energystar.gov/

_________________________
Thomas E. Skains, Chairman, President and CEO of Piedmont Natural Gas, Chairman, American Gas Association

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