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Is The Natural Gas Lobby Playing Both Sides?

The new Kerry-Boxer climate bill in the Senate shows a lot of love for the natural-gas industry, as Brad noted yesterday. Not only would a price on carbon give natural gas an advantage over more carbon-heavy fuels like oil or coal, but Barbara Boxer specifically added a "clean energy" provision to her bill, which would reward electric utilities for switching from oil or coal to natural gas. Still, the big, unanswered question is whether the natural-gas industry is ready to show some love back.

The newly active gas industry—which has been buoyed by vast new discoveries of natural gas in shale-rock formations—has certainly been successful in its initial lobbying foray. Last week, nine shale-state senators, including climate swing votes like Mary Landrieu, Michael Bennett, and Arlen Specter, wrote a letter urging Boxer to include natural-gas incentives in her climate bill. But it's much less clear whether the gas industry will actually push for the climate bill itself. At a media breakfast two weeks ago, CEOs from America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) argued that they were perfectly fine having no climate bill at all. "We are totally comfortable competing on the market," said Devon Energy CEO Larry Nichols. But, he added, if Congress is going to pass a climate bill, then the industry plans on lobbying hard to at least make sure it's not tilted too heavily toward coal interests—as, Nichols argued, the House bill turned out to be.

You see a similar stance from gas-state senators. Mary Landrieu praised the natural-gas provisions in the Kerry-Boxer bill, but she didn't sound too thrilled with the bill as a whole. "I'm still not convinced that the cap-and-trade framework is the best way to create a carbon-constrained future," she told ClimateWire. "I am not committed to cap and trade under any circumstances." That's not exactly the "thank you" Boxer might have been hoping for.

(Flickr photo credit: TRPhoto)