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Natural gas is 'best performing commodity'

By - Last modified: April 23, 2013 at 9:20 AM

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Tim Stuhldreher

When you can't go any lower, there's nowhere else to go but up.

I think that's the lesson from the news, reported by Canada's Financial Post newspaper and others, that natural gas is the "best performing commodity so far in 2013."

Prices in the U.S. are up about 30 percent since the start of the year, the paper said.

Due to a glut of shale gas, exacerbated by a warm winter, gas reached record lows last spring, dipping below $2 per 1,000 cubic feet, the Associated Press reports. Since then, they have more than doubled, the news service said.

I suppose prices could have gone lower than $2, though it's hard to see how. That's really, really cheap.

As it is, the price rise brings "sighs of relief from an unusual variety of interests," the Associated Press reports.

"Gas drilling companies are obviously happy with the rising price, and so are leaseholders and states that get revenue based on the market price," the AP said. "But the coal industry and renewable energy advocates are cheering the news, too, since gas no longer has a huge price advantage over those other energy sources."

• • •

The mismatch between gas supply and demand has put at least one notable project on hold.

The $1 billion Commonwealth Pipeline was to bring shale gas from northeastern Pennsylvania down through Chester County to markets including Washington, D.C.

However, executives were informing investors of a hiatus as early as January, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

"Initial demand for the project did not meet our expectations," the Inquirer quoted incoming UGI Corp. CEO John Walsh Jr. telling analysts.

The newspaper noted how significant that is, given that UGI and pipeline partner WGL Holdings Inc. both own distribution companies that would have been natural customers.

A couple of weeks ago, a notice announcing the project's suspension was posted on its website.

• • •

I'm looking forward to reading my colleague Brent Burkey's story on "Marcellus Works" this Friday.

The legislative package would create various tax incentives to jump-start natural-gas-vehicle use in Pennsylvania. Brent reported last week on the advance of several Marcellus Works bill in the state House.

The incentives contained in Marcellus Works amount to a considerable fraction of the revenues collected by the state's impact fee. Lancaster-based state Rep. Mike Sturla, among others, has complained about the propriety of subsidizing a market for large multinational energy companies mostly based out of state.

At one point, House Bill 301 specified that the panel charged with recommending who gets the incentives include representatives of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania. That provision, as Brent reports, has since been removed.

Tim Stuhldreher covers banking, finance, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at tims@centralpennbusiness.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, @timstuhldreher.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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