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Let’s take a look at natural gas pricing

The U.S. is suffering from an unnatural cold weather storm that has swept into the South, bringing bone-chilling temperatures and causing utility failures that have kept millions in Texas without power and heat.

In the midst of all this, natural gas prices have skyrocketed. No, it is not a mistake or a misplaced decimal point when we reported that the price of natural gas paid by New Ulm Public Utilities was $3 to $5 per MMBtu (million British Thermal Units) at the beginning of February, and two weeks later, it was $157 per MMBtu. In Oklahoma, the cost of a million BTUs has hit $600.

Obviously, the law of supply and demand is at work here, but how much of that is truly economic pressures at play and how much is out-and-out profiteering?

Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota is calling for a federal investigation of the phenomenon. According to the Associated Press, Smith sent a letter Saturday to federal regulators, saying the price spikes will not just harm consumers, but could “threaten the financial stability of some utilities that do not have sufficient cash reserves to cover their short-term costs in this extraordinary event.”

There are other aspects of this past week’s storms, such as why the State of Texas’ utilities failed so miserably when they were needed the most. It’s a question that should be answered by those responsible for running those utilities.

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