Thawing Fuel For Palin's Pipeline
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, November 13, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Energy: Sometimes, America lucks out. From the Arctic, a new energy source has emerged called frozen gas. It could cut prices and bring independence. We hope Democrats and Republicans can work together on this.
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A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that 85.4 trillion cubic feet of frozen natural gas crystals lie buried beneath Alaska's icy North Slope, a region where the crude production peaked in 1988 and had to be replaced by imported oil.
The frozen gas, known as gas hydrate, is a new Made-In-U.S.A. energy source that's nearly three times the 30 trillion cubic feet of estimated U.S. reserves from conventional gas sources; it had not even been counted in current estimates of domestic energy reserves.
Officials say the frozen gas accounts for 11.5% of the volume of known recoverable gas in the U.S. and could heat 100 million homes for a decade. The country currently uses 23 trillion cubic feet of gas a year for heating, agriculture and industrial uses, but will see demand rise 20% in the next decade, according to Energy Information Administration estimates.
"The hydrates have more potential for energy than all other fossil fuels combined," Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne told a news conference.
It's also dirt cheap, producible at less than $10 per million British thermal units, even less than that with advancements, USGS director Mark Myers told Bloomberg.
It burns much cleaner than petroleum or coal, making it theoretically acceptable to those who obsess over environmental concerns. It can be produced with existing technology, and retrieved in the next decade. That means it could serve as a bridge to other cleaner alternative energy sources that are still in development for viability.
That's high as an Obama administration energy priority and a golden opportunity for Barack Obama to move the U.S. toward diversified energy sources to bring energy security and a stronger economy.
He's in luck, too. He has a willing partner in Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who this week vowed to work with the new president to bring the U.S. toward energy independence.
"It would be my honor to assist and support our new president and the new administration," Palin said.
She's already gotten much of the heavy lifting done. Palin pushed a $40 billion plan to build a 1,715-mile gas pipeline to the lower 48 after the project had failed to get through the legislature for 30 years. Had Palin not been around to get it done, the pipeline would be a major obstacle for gas hydrate production. But the governor signed off on it in August.
What Palin's done lightens the burden on Obama to counter the usual environmental special interests' can't-do-ism and their endless lawsuits. She has already built a people's consensus in Alaska to support the pipeline.
That leaves Obama to take care of the main task of bringing Congress on board and selling it to the public.
Sure, there are details to be worked out around how to extract the gas so as to prevent methane emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect. But there also are promising answers. A depressurization technique that changes the superconcentrated crystals to water and natural gas at the surface can contain the processing byproducts better than other methods is one.
That's likely to require compromise from all parties. But a can-do spirit from the Obama camp will enhance the project and achieve the goal.
The project is important, because gas is a bridge form of energy that uses proven resources and technology to pave the way for multiple sources of energy that are still in development — wind, solar, switchgrass. It will take a bit of time, and energy companies say it still makes sense to extract conventional sources first. But it will contribute relatively quickly, as unproven sources won't.
This new source of energy has the potential to give the economy the kind of boost Obama could use to keep his public support high. That will aid him in winning the public over to his other initiatives and strengthen his bipartisan credentials.
Obama would be wise to take this chance to develop this new energy in his new presidency, with Palin as an important — and interesting — partner. But all of this, the resources and the partner, are chiefly a matter of luck. Obama should go for it.