Nothing has caused more concern for agriculture than the price of natural gas. Natural gas is the primary feedstock for anhydrous ammonia and other fertilizers. The surge in natural gas prices over the last four years has been a key reason why nitrogen fertilizer costs have jumped by nearly 50 percent at the farm level. This rise in prices has contributed to the growing reliance on imported fertilizer.
Surprisingly, the rest of the world doesn't feel the squeeze from skyrocketing energy prices the way we do. In the U.S., natural gas prices have increased 400 percent over the last five years. In September 2005, the average price for natural gas in the U.S. reached $14.50 per million BTUs, while competing countries, such as Brazil and most of South America, Iran and Russia, paid $1.60, $1.25 and $0.95 respectively.
Why? The U.S. is the only developed country in the world that has cut off access to its offshore drilling reserves. Natural gas is cheapest when sold close to the area of production because natural gas requires liquification or pipelines for transport. Countries that have natural gas and produce it have dramatically cheaper prices. The U.S. has abundant reserves of natural gas. We just don't use it.
Congressional and Presidential bans have put 85 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) off-limits to exploration, even though it contains vast amounts of natural gas. It has been estimated that there are 406 trillion cubic feet of natural gas along the OCS. To put that into perspective, current production in the lower 48 states is under 10 trillion cubic feet per year. The OCS contains enough gas for fifty years, but we can't touch it.
Therefore, I am supporting the following bills to repeal the moratorium on drilling and leasing for energy resources off the outer continental shelf: