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Exelon CEO Touts Natural Gas as Top Clean-Energy Option

Tells Congress to step back from subsidizing clean energy

Congressional action isn't needed to transition the United States to a cleaner-energy economy because the nation already has an abundance of natural gas supplies, Exelon Corp. CEO John Rowe told attendees at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference March 9.

The availability of natural gas, driven by discoveries in shale deposits, makes the resource cheaper than other alternatives for electricity generation, said Rowe.

It's also cleaner than traditional sources, producing 80% less sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide per megawatt hour than coal, Rowe said.

Wind, solar and nuclear are too costly as clean-energy options, Rowe said. Chicago-based Exelon is the largest nuclear power producer in the United States .

Rowe cited a report by CERA, or Cambridge Energy Research Associates, that concluded natural gas prices will remain flat throughout the decade and rise minimally in the following years.

Rowe said he has never-before seen the level of consistency on supply forecasts that he has observed with natural gas projections for the next several decades.

CERA issued a natural gas report earlier in the day that said North America has enough recoverable gas to meet current consumption levels for more than 100 years.

Advances in technology will likely make natural gas more available and less costly than previous projections, the CERA report said.

"North America has become a gas market island," said Samantha Gross, director of integrated research for IHS CERA. "We're disconnected from the rest of the world because we can meet our own needs."

Rowe made no apologies for his company's past support of cap-and-trade legislation, bluntly telling the audience that Exelon partly backed the since-abandoned proposal for profit reasons.

But he said other federal and state proposals would burden consumers, cripple markets and increase the federal debt while doing little to help the environment and increase the nation's competitiveness. He urged Congress to follow the doctors' oath of "do no harm."

At the same time, he encouraged Congress to continue allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce the Clean Air Act, saying the laws are important to hastening production of cleaner electricity supplies.

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