Carper, Castle Urge Energy Dept. to Combat Rising Natural Gas Prices

WASHINGTON (Oct. 6, 2004) – The same day the Energy Department released a gloomy forecast for home-heating costs this winter, Delaware Senator Tom Carper and Rep. Michael Castle today joined other lawmakers from the Northeast and Midwest in calling for the agency to help curb the rising costs of natural gas prices. With winter around the corner and natural gas prices already on the march upward, the lawmakers called on Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to reinstate an interagency working group that had been set up specifically to take a closer look at how rising natural gas prices are affecting Americans and the economic recovery. Last month, the Bush administration announced it had disbanded the working group, which was formed in May to coordinate efforts across the entire federal government to help find solutions to rising energy costs. The letter, which was signed by six House members and five senators, asks Abraham to work with Congress to “find solutions that will have an immediate near-term impact on consumer affordability and price volatility of natural gas to reduce the burden on homeowners, farmers, and industry in our states and congressional districts.” The letter states the lawmakers’ support for various energy efficiency programs, as well as all “environmentally responsible” increases in natural gas production. The letter comes on the heels of a report out today by the Energy Information Administration, which says residential natural gas prices will be 11 percent higher this winter compared to last year. The agency has also forecasted that heating an average home with natural gas will cost $1010 this year – a 49 percent increase over the average price from 1998 to 2000. Because of the increased use of natural gas for cleaner electricity generation and other uses, the United States now has the highest natural gas prices in the industrialized world. The higher prices have forced companies to postpone plant expansions or shift jobs overseas to countries with greater energy supply and lower energy prices. Farmers have also been affected. Natural gas is the prime ingredient in fertilizers, and it powers water pumps for irrigation. A full text of the letter to Secretary Abraham is attached. Letter to Secretary Abraham