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Kelsh: Take natural gas collection seriously

Jerry Kelsh

In 1972, we were made starkly aware that energy was very precious. In fact, the question was often asked, "Are we about to run out of oil?" Then began a push to conserve energy.

Now, 40 years later, the situation has changed considerably. We now have the ability to get more oil out of the ground. The problem is, as we hurry to recover the oil, are we wasting another natural resource that we should be using?

I understand that oil companies are flaring more than 30 percent of the natural gas that comes out with the oil in western North Dakota. I think this waste is unacceptable, to put it mildly. Natural gas is a high-quality, clean-burning energy source that can heat our homes, power our generating plants, and run our cars and trucks at a fraction of the cost of heating oil, gasoline or diesel fuel.

I attended the National Conference of State Legislatures recently. As a member of the Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee, I had the opportunity to visit with other legislators from across the country and Canada. Many are surprised that North Dakota does not make certain that this resource is not being wasted. Other states and Canadian provinces require that natural gas be captured or pumped back into a cavity in the ground for later use.

A legislator from Oklahoma told me he has converted five of his personal vehicles to natural gas. The engine performance is great; his fuel cost is about one-third of what it was before switching to natural gas.

North Dakota legislators need to do what is right for taxpayers: provide a good, clean source of energy, collect an appropriate tax for what is being wasted, and serve all our communities with a responsible way to heat our homes and fuel our vehicles.

As we begin the process of selecting and electing candidates for the 2014 North Dakota legislative elections, we need to be asking where they stand on this issue.

This should not be a political issue; but, unfortunately, the supermajority in the Legislature did not support bills that would have remedied this issue in the last legislative session.

Let's not let this happen again. Let's enact common sense solutions; and let's elect legislators who will do just that.

Kelsh is a Democrat from Fullerton in the North Dakota House of Representatives and represents District 26.