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Gas producers want more access

The United States has enough natural gas to generate electricity...

The United States has enough natural gas to generate electricity and keep computers and businesses humming for six decades, but only if Congress opens more federal lands to drilling and more pipelines are built to deliver it, an industry report said Wednesday.

The new report issued by the American Gas Association comes at a time when environmental groups are trying to block a Senate Republican plan to give oil, gas and mining groups access to more federal lands.

The United States had natural gas resources totaling 1,258 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2000, much more than previously thought, according to the report. That amount is roughly equal to a 63-year supply based on current rates of production.

"It's vital to gain greater access to our tremendous resource base, expand our pipeline delivery system and support development of energy-efficient technologies," said Roger Cooper, vice president of the American Gas Association.

While the nation's attention has focused on California's recent power shortages and blackouts, the entire country faces a need to meet the increasing demand for electricity, which is the result partly of the growing use of computers and the Internet. Most new generating plants to provide that power will be fueled with cleaner-burning natural gas.

The gas trade group said that while the United States has a greater potential supply of natural gas than previously thought, the full potential will remain untapped unless energy firms gain access to more federal lands for drilling and the capacity to deliver the natural gas is increased.

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