Thursday, December 12, 2013
Letter to the editor
The Aug. 11 story by Michael Shepherd about natural gas availability for homes and business in Augusta and other areas ("Central Maine natural gas options confront consumers") is the best-written description of this topic that I have seen. However, I have two questions.
1. Why is it sensible for two different companies to invest in building natural gas pipelines to service the same areas? With electricity, one company (in my area, Central Maine Power) delivers the electricity. It doesn't make sense to invest in two pipelines in the same area. The Maine Public Utilities Commission should have picked one that would offer the best service for the best price. The commission should also regulate the price on a continuing basis so that customers are not overcharged. Is it the fault of the commission or the fault of the Maine Legislature that these things are not happening?
2. What is expected to happen to the price in the future? Apparently the price is not regulated, so the company can choose to increase the price after customers have spent $6,000 or so to modify their heating system. Are these two companies willing to guarantee a fuel price for long enough so that the savings in fuel cost can, in a few years, pay back the customer's investment in connecting to the pipeline and installing a new furnace?
The customer could be taking a big risk. Will the supplier's cost of natural gas be stable over the long term? There are lots of environmental problems with the fracking process.
New environmental laws could change the price of natural gas a lot. It might be better now to invest $6,000 or so on weatherization (insulation, closing cracks, etc.) that will save money no matter what kind of future heat source is used, possibly geothermal or solar.