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New Directions in Energy Policy

We were encouraged by your editorial of Feb. 12, which set out the need for a new vision in terms of U.S. energy policy. Certainly conservation must be a major part of that new vision. Any effort that can make conservation pay off for both business and consumers, such as the newly enlarged conservation program launched by Southern California Gas and the state’s other utilities last summer, is a step in the right direction.

However, an equally important step would be to make the most of the resources that we have here in North America. One often overlooked resource is natural gas. This cleanest burning of fossil fuels is abundantly available in North America, and an extensive and growing network of pipelines already exists to get it to market.

Recent advances in technology have set the scene to make natural gas an even bigger player in our economy. Besides heating our homes and cooking our food, we can look to natural gas to power motor vehicles and make homes and businesses self-generators of electricity through the fuel cell, a device that converts gas directly into electricity and heat without combustion.

But to get the most out of this resource, and soon, research dollars are urgently needed to help develop these and other technologies. Natural gas has been treated as the poor stepchild by the U.S. government, which has given the lion’s share of Department of Energy research dollars to coal and nuclear research. Currently, a consortium of gas industry utilities and associations, headed by the American Gas Assn., is urging the Energy Department to double its research funds for natural gas from about $100 million to $215 million in 1992.

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This is reasonable when one considers that the DOE’s research and development budget is about $6 billion per year. The payoff could be enormous in terms of speeding up the replacement of foreign oil with domestic gas.

Not only would increased use of natural gas gain us some economic (and political) independence, it would also help with our trade deficit and create more jobs at home. Equally important, it would also help clean up the air.

Unfortunately, the DOE appears to be asking for only a modest increase in natural gas research, about $12 million for 1992. This would be a grave mistake.

RICHARD D. FARMAN

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Chairman of the Board

Southern California Gas Co.

Los Angeles


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