Wyden Presses Obama: Natural Gas

Photograph by Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Workers lay gas pipeline outside the town of Waynesburg, PA on April 13, 2012.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, called on President Barack Obama today to use his statutory power instead of new legislation to boost U.S. exports of natural gas.

Wyden called natural gas “a strategic American advantage” and “the envy of the world,” which is forced to buy its natural gas at prices five to six times higher than what the U.S. pays. Still, the U.S. has to recognize that the exploitation of natural gas has been “abrupt,” Wyden said at an event hosted by Bloomberg Government and Google Inc. in Charlotte near the site of the party’s presidential convention.  As a result, natural gas exploitation is not devoid of controversy.

Natural gas output is on the rise largely because of hydraulic fracturing, which has given drillers access to reserves in shale rock formations once too costly to produce. The so-called fracking injects millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals thousands of feet below the surface to free fossil fuels trapped there, a process that Obama’s environmentalist allies say increases air and water pollution.

Fracking is aiding natural gas production — and Obama’s poll ratings — in Ohio and Pennsylvania, swing states with 38 electoral votes combined even as Obama is a self-professed green-energy president.

The president has done little to stall the expansion of fracking, even with pressure from within his Democratic Party.

Wyden today said that there are “serious” fracking questions, yet he said the industry should work towards a “technological fix” to the problem. Wyden will become chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee if the Democrats retain their majority in the Senate.

 Jim Snyder contributed to this report.

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