SAN FRANCISCO – At least eight energy companies have plans to build natural gas pipelines, which could lead to cheaper prices for consumers.
“The California economy is very strong, and it’s going to continue to grow and expand,” said Jim Macias of Calpine Corp., which is developing plans for a pipeline that would run from the Southwest to Antioch. “We have adequate pipeline capacity for today, but we have to build capacity for the future.”
The prospect of vastly increased pipeline space for natural gas, coupled with a building boom in California of gas-powered electricity plants, could head off crises such as the one that beset the state last winter.
Gov. Gray Davis also has touted new plants as California’s insurance against blackout threats and price increases. Just in the past month, Davis has thrown the ceremonial switches on three new power plants in California, all of which run on natural gas.
“California is building its way to total energy self-sufficiency,” Davis said Monday at opening ceremonies for Calpine’s Los Medanos Energy Center in Pittsburg.
But there’s a risk to putting so many eggs in one basket, say some industry experts. California’s rush to construct the new gas turbines — at least 16 will come online by 2004 — is being repeated across the nation by states equally attracted by the environmental benefits and potential cost savings of gas.
Those states will want to tap into pipelines being built across their territory for their own needs, said Joe Benneche, a forecasting expert with the U.S. Energy Department. Coastal states such as California and Florida might not get their fill from the leftovers.